Home-Grown School Feeding: Implementation Lessons From a Pilot in a Poor Ethnic Minority Community in Vietnam

Food Nutr Bull. 2022 Sep;43(3):271-302. doi: 10.1177/03795721221088962. Epub 2022 Apr 26.


Background: Undernutrition threatens the health and future of preschool children in disadvantaged remote communities. Home-grown school feeding (HGSF) in nursery schools could positively impact children's nutrition while creating multiple benefits for the whole community. However, evidence is lacking on implementation of HGSF within multi-sectoral programs in remote areas.

Objective: This study assessed an HGSF pilot intervention, part of a nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) program, in a mountain ethnic minority community in Vietnam. It aimed to identify the changes brought about by the intervention, in particular diversity of children's food, food sources, barriers and facilitators to change, and future challenges and strategies.

Methods: Mixed-methods assessment covered school meal diversity, cost, and food sources but the key focus was on observed changes resulting from the HGSF intervention and perceived barriers and facilitators to its implementation. Data were collected mainly through semi-structured interviews (n = 30) and seven focus group discussions (n = 76).

Results: School meals contributed to increasing diversity of food consumed by children. Above 30% of foods used were home-grown. Respondents reported increased school attendance; children's food preferences and hygiene practices improved as did parents' caring and feeding practices. Local food systems became less cash-crop-oriented and more self-reliant, contributing to household food security and income generation. Social capital increased. Positive changes were attributed to HGSF and synergy among NSA program components. Poverty and limited resilience to external shocks threatened sustainability.

Conclusions: Implementing HGSF within an NSA program in a mountainous ethnic minority area with a high prevalence of undernutrition benefitted children and their communities.

Keywords: nutrition-sensitive agriculture; preschool; remote areas; school meal diversity; social entrepreneurship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethnic and Racial Minorities
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition*
  • Meals
  • Minority Groups
  • Vietnam