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Free Lunch in Indonesia (Part 3)

By: Hamdan Hamedan

The ‘State of School Feeding Worldwide 2022’ report by the World Food Programme (WFP) reveals that the free school lunch program has reached over 418 million students across at least 76 countries. It acts not just as a social initiative but as an “economic engine,” creating around 4 million jobs globally. In Indonesia, the scope for expanding this program is significant, with current coverage still minimal, mirroring trends in certain Southeast Asian and African nations.

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This scenario, however, represents a substantial opportunity for growth. A 2017 WFP study highlighted that free school lunches enhance student attendance and educational quality, notably for girls, and are crucial for tackling poverty and economic inequality.

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Indonesia has been exploring various free school lunch initiatives since 1997. Islamic boarding schools, for instance, have offered similar programs for decades, even centuries, thanks to the commendable efforts of kiai/nyai (may Allah bless them greatly 🤲).

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Between 1997 and 2000, the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Supplementary Feeding Program for School Children reached 2.3 million students across regions outside Java and Bali. Later, from 2005-2010, the WFP School Feeding (Fortified Biscuit) program benefited around 800,000 students in NTT, NTB, North Sumatra, South Sulawesi, Aceh, and Jabodetabek.

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WFP’s analysis suggests that each dollar invested in school feeding programs can yield up to nine times the economic return. This doesn’t even account for the potential creation of 1.8 million jobs in Indonesia, a prospect too significant to overlook.

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Therefore, I am convinced that each meal provided in schools not only nourishes the children but also opens pathways to a more prosperous future for Indonesian society, offering substantial employment opportunities. Here’s to hoping for that brighter future.

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Oleh: Hamdan Hamedan* 67 tahun yang lalu, Presiden Brasil Juscelino Kubitschek mengambil keputusan yang tak sederhana. Ia “nekat” memindahkan ibukota