Food for Education, Nairobi
Wawira Njiru is making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of African children by marrying the two things she’s most passionate about: healthy food and education. For her ground-breaking work harnessing gastronomy to support the new generations in Kenya, she is recognised with the Icon Award as part of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 programme.
Njiru grew up in Ruiru, where she witnessed first-hand how a lack of adequate meals too often impacted her classmates’ ability to make the most of their primary school lessons. The daughter of clinicians who had transformed their own lives for the better thanks to scholarships, she learnt early on that education can be the key to a better future.
While living in Australia and studying nutrition at university, Njiru decided to create a small fundraiser to help feed kids at the primary school back in her hometown. With the funds, she built a makeshift kitchen and prepared meals for 25 children – but the project awoke in her a desire to make a bigger difference.
On returning to Kenya, Njiru laid the foundation of Food for Education, her social enterprise that provides school meals to 40,000 kids per day across 41 schools in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kiambu Counties. Her next target is to feed 100,000 school kids per day by the end of 2022, then to work on expanding the model to other African countries.
Food for Education is a 24-hour operation with 200 employees. After the ingredients are sourced directly from farmers, meals are cooked in large quantities overnight at a centralised kitchen according to the healthy eating principles that Njiru learnt as a trained nutritionist – plenty of rice, beans and vegetables, with a higher-than-average ratio of protein to support the kids’ growth. Then, a fleet of vans takes the meals to the schools, ready to be served at lunchtime.
As Food for Education is funded by philanthropy, the kids’ families pay only 15 cents per meal, making the school lunches the cheapest meal in Kenya. To avoid the risk of children losing cash and going hungry, Njiru and her team developed the Tap2Eat technology, which comprises a virtual wallet in the form of a wristband that allows children to pay for their meals with a simple, cashless tap.
When the Covid-19 pandemic cut families’ income and prevented many for being able to afford even the most inexpensive meals, Njiru turned to providing food packages and cash transfers, delivering over two million lunches across the nation.
Having overcome considerable hurdles as a young, black, female entrepreneur, Njiru received the title of UN Person of the Year in Kenya in 2021 and now follows it up with the Icon Award 2022, as she continues to raise awareness around classroom hunger to make sure to no kid has to go to school on an empty stomach.
Now read the interview with Wawira Njiru and watch the video: