Feeding the Future with Dishi Na County initiative in Nairobi’s Public Primary Schools and ECDE Centres


Children, being the most vulnerable demographic, often bear the brunt of food insecurity, particularly in communities where access to nutritious meals is limited. A study by Zerga, Tadesse & Ayele in 2022 showed a clear correlation between inadequate nutrition and academic performance, with hungry children often experiencing difficulty concentrating in class, reduced cognitive function and lower academic achievement. Approximately 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world (Hamilton, 2023), hindering their ability to learn and thrive.

In Kenya, where the cost of living remains high and unemployment is prevalent, the challenge of food insecurity adds to the daily struggles faced by parents in providing for their families. This issue disproportionately affects school-going children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who face unique hurdles in accessing adequate food. For example, 8.4 million Kenyan children in arid and semi-arid areas go to school without meals (Hamilton, 2023).

Nairobi, being the most populous county in the country, reflects this reality, with over 250,000 children enrolled in public primary schools and Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres (Kinyanjui, 2023). Recognising the urgency of addressing this pressing issue, the Dishi Na County programme was conceptualised by H.E. Governor Sakaja Arthur Johnson, EGH, in his manifesto and approved by his Cabinet in 2023 as a strategic intervention to ensure that every child in Nairobi has access to hot, delicious and nutritious meals, regardless of their socio-economic background. This programme seeks to create a conducive environment for children's educational success and holistic development.

Response and Actions (Solution Path)

The process of addressing the challenge of food insecurity among school-going children in Nairobi City County started with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the national Ministry of Education on July 18, 2023, between H.E. Governor Sakaja Arthur Johnson, EGH and Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu. This laid the foundation for collaborative efforts between the County Government and relevant stakeholders. A multi-sectoral approach was adopted, involving various entities such as the technical county team, the Food for Education organisation, contractors, private sector leaders and the national government’s Ministry of Education.

Each stakeholder played a specific role in the initiative, ranging from project oversight and coordination to procurement and implementation. Site selection for the central kitchens was meticulously conducted by the County’s Health, Wellness and Nutrition, and Talent, Skills Development and Care sectors, considering factors such as the population of children, accessibility and proximity to target schools. Contracts were subsequently awarded, marking a significant milestone in the programme's implementation. The groundbreaking ceremony for the kitchen sites was a momentous occasion, graced by esteemed dignitaries, including H.E. President Dr. William Ruto, CGH and H.E. Governor Sakaja Johnson, EGH, at Roysambu Primary School.

One of the pivotal decisions made was to entrust the operation of the kitchens to the Food for Education organisation, an NGO renowned for its expertise in cooking and delivering food to school-going children across Kenya. Leveraging their experience, expertise and existing infrastructure, this decision aimed to ensure the successful implementation of the Dishi Na County programme.

Throughout the kitchens’ construction period, several actions were taken to address key challenges, including robust planning, stakeholder engagement, and resource allocation. Decisions were made by all key stakeholders based on careful deliberation and analysis of available data, with the primary objective of maximising impact and ensuring the programme's success.

However, like any complex undertaking, hurdles were encountered along the way, including delays in procurement processes and logistical challenges. These hurdles were overcome through proactive measures such as streamlining procedures and enhancing communication channels. The involvement of other departments such as Finance, Environment, Works, etc., was integral to the development of the solutions, with collaboration and synergy driving progress towards the common goal of alleviating food insecurity among school children.

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Date of Publication:
8 February, 2023

Nairobi County

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