USDA McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program Phase III in Mali

In response to low school attendance and a persistent food crisis in Mali, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) began implementing the McGovern-Dole Food for Education project in 2007 with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2011 and 2015, USDA awarded CRS and the Educational Development Center (EDC) funding to continue and expand the programming into second and third phases.

The program’s goals were to achieve higher literacy rates for school-aged children and to improve health and nutrition practices. Third phase program activities included:

  • Providing school meals and take-home rations
  • Distributing vitamin A and deworming medication
  • Establishing savings and internal lending community (SILC) groups
  • Capacity building for school management committees
  • Supplying literacy materials to schools
  • Training teachers and school administrators on the Balanced Literacy Approach (BLA)

AIR conducted project and impact evaluations of the third phase of the project (2015 – 2020). For the baseline and midline evaluations, we used a mixed methods approach to set up performance indicator benchmarks and to measure the progress of the McGovern-Dole project over time. AIR collected quantitative surveys from students, parents, principals, teachers, and school management committee board members, and qualitative focus groups and interviews with beneficiaries, local and national stakeholders, and project staff.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the endline evaluation was modified as primary survey data could not be collected. Instead, AIR analyzed secondary data collected by the EDC, which included annual data from students, teachers, school administrators, and school management committees, along with monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data provided by CRS.  

Despite the pandemic, the endline evaluation reported several positive findings, including improved teacher literacy instruction; improved school enrollment, attendance, and retention; improved safe food preparation and storage; and positive impacts on the community from the SILC groups. The impact evaluation found that one year of exposure to BLA was associated with a significant increase in learning the alphabet, ability to decode, and reading comprehension for Grade 1 students.