Cost IDR 400 Trillion, The World Bank Responds to Indonesia’s Free School Meals Program

The World Bank Responds to Indonesia's Free School Meals Program
The World Bank Responds to Indonesia's Free School Meals Program (photo: Envato Elements)

As Indonesia gears up for a comprehensive free school meals program under the administration of President-elect Prabowo Subianto and Vice President-elect Gibran Rakabuming, the World Bank has shared its global insights on similar initiatives. The newly elected leaders are poised to implement a wide-reaching nutrition initiative aimed at schoolchildren, marking a significant policy move.

In its June 2024 report titled “Indonesia Economic Prospect,” released on Monday (June 24, 2024), the World Bank emphasized the effectiveness of free school meals, a strategy that has gained widespread acceptance internationally. Known globally as “school meals,” this intervention is recognized for its multiple benefits.

The World Bank’s report highlights that in 2022, approximately 418 million children worldwide benefitted from school meal programs. These meals not only improve health and nutrition but also enhance attendance, learning outcomes, and provide a form of social protection.

“International evidence shows that school meals are most effective when complemented by educational, health, and nutrition interventions, as well as basic safety nets,” the World Bank noted in its report. The scope of these programs has expanded to focus on food quality, the role of meals in building resilience, and responses to various shocks, in addition to strengthening local market development.

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The World Bank stressed the importance of clearly defining and setting specific goals for these programs to ensure they are implemented effectively and cost-efficiently. Factors such as the type of intervention (meals, snacks, or take-home rations), food quality (composition and portion size), procurement methods (local or centralized), the number of beneficiaries, and geographical and logistical conditions all play a crucial role in the program’s success.

Currently, the Indonesian government plans to allocate IDR 71 trillion for the free nutritious meals program in the first year of the Prabowo-Gibran administration. However, details on the specific targets and implementation strategy have yet to be disclosed.

According to the World Bank, providing food is especially effective in countries facing food security issues. “In general, school meals can be effective if there are concerns about food security,” the report stated.

Moreover, the World Bank highlighted that free school meals program require significant management capacity from local governments and schools. A centralized model could better manage food procurement risks and simplify oversight and quality control, which is crucial for preventing food safety issues.

The introduction of free school meals program in Indonesia aims to replicate the success seen internationally, where school meals have proven to be a valuable tool in promoting health, education, and social stability. As Indonesia prepares to launch this initiative, lessons from other countries will be instrumental in shaping a program that can deliver on its promises of improved nutrition and educational outcomes for millions of children.