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Nutrition and food security in rural China: An assessment of school feeding system

The school feeding system in China provides 180 to 200 days of meals a year to rural children from economically disadvantaged provinces that have a high incidence of malnutrition. The program covers 14 provinces, 100 counties, and over three million children. In order to make policy adjustments and expand the benefits to other low-income areas of the country, it is essential to measure the impact of the system.

The purpose of this study is to assess China’s school feeding system under its National Nutrition Improvement Plan to better understand the system’s impact on rural students, local food security, and sustainable economic growth. Researchers will assess the quality of the meals and nutrient intake by children aged seven to 15 in relation to their health and nutritional status, school attendance, and educational outcomes. Economic impact on local communities will be monitored to understand if and how the system affects local food production, procurement, and employment, particularly for women. To improve the potential impacts of the system on nutritional outcomes, additional interventions (including nutrition education and capacity development for women and men) will be introduced in a selected number of schools over a period of two years, and their impact will be evaluated.

The project will be led by the China Development Research Foundation (CDRF) in collaboration with several strategic participating institutions, including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Food Program, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, Microsoft, Amway Charity Foundation, and the Capital Healthcare and Nutrition Cuisine Society. Although the research focuses on China, results and outcomes have the potential to be used widely in other countries in Asia where school feeding programs are an entry point to target food security, nutrition, and school performance among school-aged children.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Annie Wesley
Total Funding
CA$ 710,000.00
Agriculture and Food Security
Agriculture and Food Security
Institution Country
Project Leader
Hang Zhao
China Development Research Foundation


Nutrition and food security in rural China : evaluating the impacts of the national nutrition improvement plan for rural students - final technical report

Nutrition and food security in rural China : evaluating the impacts of the national nutrition improvement plan for rural students - final technical report


The research analyzes how the school food system in China under the National Nutrition Improvement Plan affects local food security and the economic situation, nutrition, health, and education outcomes of girls and boys. Some findings to date include: the school food system has effectively helped rural students in poverty-stricken areas; school feeding has met basic nutritional needs of most students, and; students’ physical health has improved. The project also looks at how school meals are related to poverty reduction, and how poor families’ burdens have been relieved because of the school meals programme.

Author(s): Jin, Fang, Zhixin, Du, Hang, Zhao, Jingqiu, Xu

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