Turkey looks to expand free program to 5 million students

School in Turkey

The minister of National Education has announced that from next semester more students in Turkey will have access to free lunches, as the program is spread to more schools.

Mahmut Ozer, Minister of National Education, explained in a written statement released recently that they were aiming for access to free school meals to be expanded by a total of 5 million students, starting from February, the beginning of semester two.

The current situation of free school meals

Currently, Turkey supplies free meals to all students who attend grade school and those who have to travel from home to attend school over a long distance, and students away at boarding schools. Originally the scheme was only available to students who were not able to afford meals, however Ozer spoke to expand this so that all students could be entitled to free lunches.

The agreement between Turkey and WFP

A protocol was signed between Turkey and the World Food Programme (WFP), which will enable the meals to be given out, and a study run for the feasibility. There will be implementation of free meals to the most disadvantaged communities. It was announced by Ozer that free school lunches would be available from February 6, 2023, for all pre-schoolers.

The plan for 2023

In 2023, some 1.5 million students will benefit from the free meal lunch scheme from the beginning of the school year, and it will later be expanded to 1.8 million in the coming months. In his statement, Ozer explained that: “We are planning to take a concrete step for equality in opportunities in education.”

In a bid to facilitate access for students and staff to food at school premises across the country, the government has decided to stop the flexibility in rents at schools in the canteens – which are operated by private enterprises not the schools.

Free meals – why the need?

The free meals initiative has been ultimately aimed at curbing the number of dropouts, Ozer explained. He also noted that the recommendations came from those made at the Education Council last year, which was a landmark convention of educators.

WFP – how many children go hungry?

Every single day millions of children around the world go hungry to school, according to the WFP, and they spend the day hungry. This affects their concentration and furthermore their ability to learn. The WFP is working to set up sustainable school feeding programmes nationwide across several countries.

In 2020, around 15 million children received meals and snacks across the globe courtesy of WFP. They say that the school programmes for food have a multitude of benefits, including dissuading children from dropping out of schools, and stopping parents from having to spend even more of their income on lunches for their children.


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