Hunger and learning

For many young children growing up in Sub-Saharn Africa, hunger is a way of life. Children often don’t receive enough to eat at home and they arrive at school with empty stomachs.

We know hunger can slow a child’s physical development, but can it also impact their ability to learn?

Research points to a link between cognitive development and nutrition. Undernutrition (not getting enough to eat each day) can delay brain development and hinder the ability to learn. The findings are striking:

  • The longer a child does not get enough to eat, the greater the chance of learning delays.
  • Poor children who attend school hungry perform worse on standardized tests than poor children who attended school well-fed.

While this may seem like a bleak prospect for children growing up in resource poor countries, the good news is that improved nutrition can change the effects of not getting enough to eat early in life. In other words, it may be possible to offset the early impact of hunger on brain development and learning by providing adequate nutrition as kids get older.

I-KODI initiated a lunchtime feeding program at the Konditi Primary School to provide children of all ages with a solid meal during the day. We know that when children are adequately nourished, they have energy to fuel rapid brain development and learning improves.

Each day, children receive a large portion of freshly cooked maize and beans. They have time to eat and to replenish their stores of energy. As a result, they return to the classroom more alert and better able to concentrate on their lessons.

We invite you to learn more about our Lunchtime Feeding Program and to join us in supporting efforts to increase the positive impact of improved nutrition on health and learning.