Prior to 2021, I had several dreams about starting a school lunch program. From my experience working in the school system and with children, both in the States and abroad, I understand the importance of school lunch. I can remember working with students who relied on school lunch because it was either their only balanced meal for the day or their only meal for the day.
Even before I started Helping Other People Excel For Tomorrow Inc., I knew there was something for me to do in Ghana aside from working at FOCOS Hospital. I received a call from someone who said that they were led to invest in any initiative that was placed on my heart do in Ghana. They also said that two other people were feeling the same way. At first, I had no idea what to do, but then I remembered the dreams I had.
I reached out to an organization, the Alliance For African Women Initiative (AFAWI), that I met with previously. I told them that it was on my heart to start a school lunch, nutrition, and garden initiative. I decided to hold off on telling them about a chicken project as I was just getting started. It was the perfect match. AFAWI had actually collected data about school lunches in the area because they were interested in starting a nutrition program. We decided to partner and start working towards our shared vision.
The first step was informing the local school board of Ga East Assembly about the initiative. The Board of Education was able to help us identify schools where the initiative would best take place. Then members of AFAWI were able to conduct a Needs and Assets assessment at local schools.
Ghana has a school feeding program; however, due to resources, not all schools are recipients of funding. After the assessment was complete, Adenkrebi Basic School was chosen. Elementary school students received lunch, but the portions wee small and their meals only included a starch, mostly rice, and stew. Junior high school students were not receiving lunch from the school because junior- and secondary high schools are not eligible to participate at the time. Once the school was notified, the Queen Mother of Adenkrebi donated her land for the school’s garden.
The garden will be used as a sustainable source of food for students and, once we have enough to sell, income from produce will be used for the school and to support students impact by HIV/AIDS. We’re also working towards raising money for the school’s poultry project to provide a sustainable source of protein for students and another means of income for the school. The initiative will also include a nutrition education component, which I worked on with a Ghanaian nutritionist, Eric Anku, and H.O.P.E. board member, Arielle McDonald.
Through the program, H.O.P.E. For Tomorrow has raised enough money to fund school lunches for a year, invest in the school’s garden; and with the help of AFAWI, hire local farmers and increase the salary of the school’s cook.
There were a few bumps along the way. We didn’t consider whether children had the utensils to eat. We found out that majority of the students were sharing bowls and water bottles. Donors sprang into action, and we were able to purchase bowls and water bottles for each student when the program began. We also didn’t take into consideration food storage once harvest takes place. Recently, we were able to purchase a refrigerator for the school.
Although we’ve had a few bumps, another positive is that the school has seen an increase in enrollment. The school’s headmaster, Mr. Gideon Nutsugah, said that the initiative is the reason why school enrollment has jumped from 181 students to 223 students. Mr. Nutsugah said that many parents enrolled their child because of the school lunch program. Parents want to make sure that their child(ren) are able to receive a balanced lunch. The garden is also grown and the school is harvesting peppers, cabbage, garden eggs, carrots, groundnuts, and okra. We are also growing corn and plan to plant other vegetables. However, because we only have two framers, we have decided to plant in phases.
I had no idea that taking another leap of faith would lead to such a beautiful outcome.
Stay tuned for more information about the Adenkrebi Basic School Nutrition Initiative and H.O.P.E. For Tomorrow.
Visit www.spreadhopeintl.org to learn more about the Adenkrebi Basic School Nutrition Initiative. Also, follow us on Instagram @hopefortomorrowinc and Facebook @spreadhopeintl. Enjoy more pictures of the initiative below.