Mothering Across Continents
  • Caring Schools

    Does availability
    of good food
    improve student

    Caring Schools
  • The pilot garden at one of the original participant schools is still being maintained.

    Caring Schools
  • After the launch, the Caring Schools project was presented as an early model for sustainable gardens and food distribution at challenged schools.

    Caring Schools

Caring Schools


An estimated one-third of 10th graders in South Africa are orphans. Many of these young people are raising younger siblings. High school graduation rates hover at 50 percent. According to Save the Children’s Childhood Development Index, one in four children is stunted or short for their age, and 9% are underweight. One barrier to progress is clear – hunger and malnutrition.


Patricia Shafer
Patricia Shafer, Chief Catalyst and
Founder of Mothering Across Continents

Save the Children South Africa and Mothering Across Continents observed that the government of South Africa had funds available for a mandatory daily meals program in primary schools. No such program existed at the high school level. In Limpopo, the Free State and highly impoverished communities such as Qwa Qwa, we wondered, "What would be the effect of sustainable food programs on student attendance and performance?"


On a total of $35,000, the Caring Schools Initiative became the first pilot project launched by Mothering Across Continents. Through collaboration, the program was available to three high schools in the impoverished community of Qwa Qwa, facilitated by Save the Children South Africa representatives. From 2009 through 2010 program, Caring Schools project funds provided:

  • Daily meals for 655 vulnerable high school students and experimental garden creation
  • Menus above government standards, incorporating protein and vegetables
  • Project leadership training for administrators
  • Opportunities for students to share lessons learned and advocate for expansion

Long-Term Impact

Save the Children No Hunger Games
Photo credit: Suzy Bernstein
and Save the Children
The pilot was a success, achieving more consistent food distribution, lower buying and delivery costs, and higher student school attendance. Results were shared with a network of 90 South African schools. One of the schools reports that the original pilot garden is sustained. In 2012, school athletes from Limpopo, the Free State and Qwa Qwa gathered to participate in the "No Hunger Games," with child advocates bearing witness to devastating effects of child hunger and malnutrition.

The impact for Mothering Across Continents is best practices and lessons learned. Since the pilot, we have delved deeply into research on child hunger and nutrition around the world, including the United States. Over and again, we are able to coach and mentor our volunteer catalysts, and more effectively collaborate with food-focused NGOs, when they imagine sustainable gardens and food distribution for children in challenged communities.


Melinda Van Zyl
Melinda Van Zyl
Save the Children South Africa

We remain grateful to Julia Zingu, former country director of Save the Children South Africa and Melinda Van Zyl, former education program manager and current migration program manager of Save the Children South Africa. Their collaboration with Mothering Across Continents founder and chief catalyst Patricia Shafer was invaluable.