No child left behind: This social entrepreneur has served nine million meals to children in need

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lukas Bester, Freelance Researcher and Writer – World Economic Forum, Sustainable Development Consultant in Emerging Markets


  • Wawira Njiru established Food for Education in 2012 to address the inequality in food access and education for Kenyan children.
  • There is a direct correlation between inadequate nutrition and lower school attendance and performance.
  • Today the organization has provided and delivered subsidized meals to over 9 million children through cutting-edge technology, like the digital mobile platform, Tap2Eat.

Wawira Njiru is a Kenyan entrepreneur, nutritionist and the founder and executive director of Food for Education. She grew up in Ruiru, Kenya and attended local schools. After school, she studied at the University of South Australia, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

As a child, she saw the impact of poor nutrition on the children she grew up with and subsequently decided to pursue solutions to the malnutrition crisis faced by underprivileged children. Food for Education started as an initiative to feed 25 children through a run-down kitchen, but the organization has since grown to provide nutritious meals to more than 50,000 children daily.

What motivated you to start Food for Education?

I started Food for Education as a university student after I first learned about the impact of poor nutrition, particularly on children, and the direct correlation between adequate nutrition and school attendance and performance. Too many children go to school hungry – not only in Kenya but around the globe – and this has detrimental effects on their ability to grow and learn. I wanted to create a solution to this.

I consider our biggest success to be our record of serving nine million meals to date. When we first shouldered the challenge of improving nutrition for the children in Kenya, it seemed like an unattainable dream. However, today we provide nine million smiles and improved nutrition education outcomes to school children across the country.

Our biggest challenge has been to create new systems, as well as streamline existing systems, to allow us to scale and feed as many children as economically as possible. Through technology like Tap2Eat, we’ve been able to reach more children, and we are currently working on stronger systems to enable us to feed one million children a day.

Discover

What is a YGL?

The YGL community is made up of more than 1,300 members and alumni, including public officials, business innovators, artists, educators, technology developers, journalists and activists.

The mission of the Forum of Young Global Leaders is to create a dynamic global community of exceptional people with the vision, courage and influence to drive positive change in the world.

Aligned with the World Economic Forum’s mission, they seek to spur public-private cooperation amongst these unique actors to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest.

Representing more than 100 nationalities, Young Global Leaders are united by the belief that the urgent problems of today present an opportunity to forge a better future across sectors, generations and borders.

Visit the YGL website at: https://www.younggloballeaders.org/

As Kenya and Africa face up to different challenges, including youth unemployment, how can a new class of empowered young entrepreneurs be created?

Great strides have been made to enable female entrepreneurs to be part of the solution, but there is room for more to be done.

A significant challenge female entrepreneurs face is limited access to funds and grants, which effectively weighs on overall economic performance and hinders the necessary innovation. According to studies conducted by the European Investment Bank, female-founded companies deliver twice as much revenue per dollar invested, despite receiving less than half of the investment capital of their male peers, proving that greater funding for female-founded organizations directly translates to overall economic growth.

What is your long-term vision for the organization?

At the moment, our main goal is to scale our operations to enable us to feed one million children in the next five years, and we are working hard to ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals every day. Similarly, our vision is to cultivate a country in which no Kenyan child will have to go to school hungry and to consequently improve the overall nutrition, school attendance, academic performance and educational opportunities for the youth.

As one of the Forum’s young global leaders, how has the community impacted your work?

The Young Global Leader community has helped me expand my network and has fortified my sense of community, not only in Nairobi but across the world. The connections I’ve made here in Nairobi have been truly inspiring, and I look forward to extending the ever-growing network to Young Global Leaders beyond Kenya.

Learn more about the Forum of Young Global Leaders here.

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