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Case Studies | January 1, 2008

School Canteens in Benin

Improving Student Enrollment and Retention in Partnership with Parents’ Associations

In 2001, in support of the Government of Benin’s stated priority of primary education for all and with funding from the United States Agency for International Development’s Food for Peace program (USAID/FFP), CRS expanded its community-managed canteen initiative in Benin. The canteen program was designed not only to provide short-term food aid to 7,500 rural primary school students in the northern departments of Borgou and Alibori, but more importantly to increase participation in the education system, which in the long term improves livelihood security through increased productivity, higher incomes, better health, and lower fertility. In contrast to the approach often taken by school feeding programs, which provide food rations but little or no training and technical assistance, CRS worked in direct partnership with local parents’ associations to strengthen their capacity to sustainably manage school canteens. Each parents’ association established and oversaw a School Canteen Management Committee (SCMC). Self-management of canteen operations fostered greater parental involvement in children’s education. By requiring monetary and in-kind contributions to complement CRS rations, the initiative promoted sustainability, ensuring that the improvements in enrollment and attendance gained through the canteens would not be lost when external food assistance ended.