Tackling food poverty as a barrier to education

One of the conundrums we've faced in providing safe accommodation for girls is sustainable funding.

On paper there's no problem. Girls need to eat, whether at home or in the hostel. If they bring their food to the hostel, it costs exactly the same for a girl to live at home or in the hostel. Therefore, every girl, even the poorest, should be able to stay in the hostel.  

That's how the logic goes, but the reality is very different. Many families face food shortages, and survive on one meal a day in the hungry season. They also manage on small portions. 

Poverty is when I saw my young sister get sick and we had no money to take her to the hospital, when my guardians had no money to pay my school requirements, when we eat one meal a day. During my holiday I spent some days to do farming and weeding for neighbours to get extra money to cover my school requirements.
— Shani, staying in Lyra hostel

When the girls are living in the school hostel they need to have three meals a day. But there simply isn't enough food for the family to spare, to send the girl to school with a full three-meals-a-day ration. The school tries to make it work and keep all the girls there. But after a while, there is no choice but to send home the girls who have not contributed enough food or money.

Aware of this problem, Lyra has subsidised the places of the poorest girls, identified by their communities as needed extra support. 

Being in the hostel is a privilege. I have experienced a different life in the hostel with lots of time to review my class lessons, no more walking and we get three meals a day!
— Shani


Many girls have told us that there isn't enough food at home, and one of the best things about staying in the hostel is getting three meals a day.

So we've been working with the schools and community to get more local food produced for the hostel, so that every girl can have the security of staying in the hostel, regardless of her home situation.


We're thrilled that the schools have each planted 3 acres of maize and Lundamatwe Secondary School has established a chicken project with 30 chickens. It's a start, which we hope will become an integral part of the hostel package.