Kenyan nutritionist Wawira Njiru, founder and director of non-profit Food for Education has received the Icon Award 2022 from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. The award celebrates an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the food world worthy of international recognition and who has used their platform to raise awareness and drive positive change.

With an estimated 80% of children in Kenya not receiving a school meal, Njiru believes no child should have to learn on an empty stomach. After majoring in food science at university in Australia, she founded Food for Education in 2016, at first making 25 meals a day. The organisation now feeds 40,000 children daily, providing nutritious meals to those in schools across Kenya, helping to boost attendance at primary level and combat hunger. It has delivered over seven million meals to date, leading to improved nutrition, academic performance and higher high school transition rates.

The smile says it all #FeedingtheFuture
The smile says it all #FeedingtheFuture

By sourcing fresh food directly from farmers, Food for Education has also been able to help stimulate the local economy. Meals are prepared in a central kitchen to internationally recognised food safety standards, while the subsidised meals are delivered to students using cutting-edge technology to design a sustainable means of delivering high quality, wholesome food. During the pandemic, the organisation also provided food packages and cash transfers that delivered over 2,000,000 meals to children and their families at home due to COVID-19.

Food for Education utilises Tap2Eat, a digital mobile platform whereby parents can pay for the subsidised lunches with mobile money. The amount is then credited to a virtual wallet linked to an NFC smart wristband, which students can wear and use accordingly, meaning no cash transfers and no lost money. Njiru hopes to expand the programme across more of Kenya and potentially beyond and provide meals to a million children over the next five years.

William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, says, “The Icon Award recognises true trailblazers in the food sphere and we’re honoured that this year we can present it to Wawira Njiru for her exceptional work. The achievements of Food for Education in just six short years have been astonishing and we know that Wawira and her organisation will go on to do incredible things in the future, across Kenya and beyond.”

Njiru comments on the award, “I am honoured and excited to be this year’s recipient of the Icon Award for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Hungry children cannot learn or grow and across the world, school meals are critical to children’s growth and education. This has been especially exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic with school meals essential to recovery and rebuilding. I would like to acknowledge the entire Food for Education team that I work with and with whom I share this award, as they work tirelessly every day to provide these lunch meals. Every day we are working to ensure that more and more school-going children have access to nutritious meals and I am grateful for this award that recognises the critical work we are doing to end classroom hunger.”

Earlier in May it was announced that Leonora Espinosa, chef-owner of Leo in Bogotá, had won the best female chef award.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 awards ceremony, will be held at Old Billingsgate market in the City of London on Monday 18 July.