In Mozambique, 80 percent of the population cannot afford an adequate diet and almost half of children are considered to be chronically malnourished. Chronic malnutrition harms children’s physical and cognitive development, with lifelong consequences. This is devastating for children in two ways: the immediate problem of child hunger, as well as the increased school drop-out rates, which compromises their future potential to escape from poverty by getting a basic education.
School feeding programs are a targeted way to address this challenge, however current providers of school meals in Mozambique rely on external donations of corn and soy. This reduces the sustainability of the programs, inhibits scalability, and forgoes any possible value creation for local farmers. For these reasons, school feeding programs currently reach less than five percent of all primary schools in Mozambique, far below the demonstrated need.
Cara co-founded The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative in May of 2016 in collaboration with her Mozambican colleagues who felt equally passionately about developing local solutions to address child nutrition and food security. The model utilizes a closed-loop system to link agricultural investment to school feeding programs in rural Mozambican schools. In this way she aims to address the immediate need of child malnutrition as well as the underlying root issues of low agricultural productivity and market failures.
As Executive Director, Cara is leading a 14-person Mozambican team, which is in charge of implementing the program’s current activities in four rural primary schools, serving over 1,050 children daily and working with 50 farmers. The team is also investigating new opportunities for investment that will increase sustainability and impact, such as input provision for local food production, micronutrient supplementation, and partnerships with other mission-aligned organizations. The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative was a finalist and winner of the 2018 President’s Innovation Challenge Crowd’s Choice Award and a finalist team in the 2017 New Venture Competition Social Enterprise track at Harvard University.
Cara received her MPA/ID from the Harvard Kennedy School in May 2018 and continues to serve as the Executive Director of the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative. As a nonprofit organization, Cara is now seeking to develop partnerships that will allow the program to grow and reach more rural schools in Mozambique. Prior to attending Harvard, Cara worked for a non-governmental organization in Mozambique, a development economics research organization in Kenya and was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Brazil. For her HKS summer internship, Cara has worked for the World Bank in Mozambique focusing on the agriculture and education components of the World Bank’s Poverty Assessment for Mozambique. Throughout these experiences, she has focused on building the knowledge and skill-set to tackle rural sustainable development challenges. Cara is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese, and frequently uses these language skills to strengthen cross-cultural partnerships.
Read the latest update on The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative.