Preserving Minds, Nurturing Futures: The Big Push for National School Meal Programs"

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3/11/20242 min read

As of 2023, there were 24 million primary school students and 30.2 million children under the age of six, according to Data Indonesia. These young people represent Indonesia's future, and meeting their nutritional needs is critical for optimal learning and development. Unfortunately, the nation continues to struggle with a high stunting rate, which is currently 21.6% compared to the 14% objective by 2024 (Kementerian Kesehatan Republik Indonesia, 2022). The coverage of school meal programs in Indonesia is currently limited, reaching less than 1% of the student population. Additionally, the regulation of school meals is often lacking, leading to many vendors offering processed and nutritionally deficient food. This issue is especially pronounced for students without packed lunches from home, notably affecting children from poor families.

This study elaborated on global evidence showcasing the diverse implementation of school meal programs despite income differences across nations. Numerous research findings consistently highlight the positive returns on investment in such programs. A range of challenges is anticipated, encompassing issues such as a lack of food sources, insufficient nutritionists, resistance from parents and children, and operational and funding constraints. These challenges extend beyond logistics to governance, involving the coordination of various stakeholders in the program. However, these challenges underscore the importance of redoubling efforts to ensure the implementation of school meal programs for every child in Indonesia.

Indonesia possesses the means and motivation to make this program a reality. The government can leverage its policies to encourage private sector involvement and design programs that incorporate community and civil society organizations, taking advantage of the nation's reputation for its people's generosity. Additionally, Indonesia can seek assistance from other countries, particularly through school meal coalitions and UN organizations. There is no valid excuse for Indonesia not to realize this critical initiative, given the potential benefits and the available support mechanisms on both domestic and international fronts. Besides, a prominent political figure includes this initiative as a flagship program, ensuring that every Indonesian child can study with a full stomach is not just a political imperative but a fundamental right. This program should be implemented by any elected political leader.


Indonesia, home to more than 278 million people, is in a good position to continue growing. The country has several advantages, such as a large, young, and hardworking population and a wealth of natural resources. In a recent speech, President Jokowi voiced confidence that Indonesia's economy will be ranked fourth by 2045. The country nevertheless has difficulties guaranteeing the welfare of future generations, notwithstanding these encouraging signs.