The Transformers Project in Kenya: The TraAn innovative Partnership To Include Ugly Vegetables Into School Feeding Programmes

Helene Meinecke

Student thesis: Master thesis


In Kenya, there is a tremendous amount of fresh food waste at the export hubs near Nairobi airport. As a recent study has shown, the main reason for this waste is the rejection of cosmetically unacceptable fresh foods, known as CUFFs, leaving crops fit for human consumption unsold (Colbert & Stuart, 2015). At the same time, millions of children within the country face hunger. Despite the efforts of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Kenyan government to provide school meals to over 1.5 million children each day, levels of malnourishment, or hidden hunger remain persistently high (FAO, 2017b). In an attempt to tackle both food waste and food insecurity, a connection that has received little attention so far, the WFP is now piloting the “Transformers”in Nairobi, Kenya. The thesis uses the Transformers as a case study to discuss the suitability of a public-private partnership (PPP) for school feeding, and to provide valuable lessons on why and how to engage with the private sector. The study combines insights from the partnership and food assistance literature to argue whether and how a PPP can be a useful food aid modality. The research discovers that the Transformers, set up under a centralized procurement and meal preparation model between the WFP and several partners, offers a new school feeding modality that delivers more dietary diverse meals to vulnerable children. Overall, utilizing a PPP has been found to provide an integrated, multi-actor solution to complex problems. Findings from the study thus offer a fresh look at a more cost-efficient school feeding modality owned and managed by local partners. Besides, the research provides a new perspective on how the power of the private sector and food waste can be used in a PPP fighting childhood hunger. While the case study is set in Kenya, the implications are applicable to a variety of contexts, as the thesis provides a theoretical discussion on the design and functioning of the PPP. The most important findings indicate that to create a successful and functioning PPP for the delivery of a social service, the partnership must be based on shared goals, mutual commitment, and win-win incentives, rather than being profit driven. A crucial success factor is thus selecting the right private partners. Another key finding is that by employing a partnership model that harnesses complementary resources, expertise, infrastructure and capacity brought in by each actor, some of the barriers a single actor faces can be overcome. Utilizing a centralized modality, the benefits of economies of scale and division of labor can be reaped.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages86
SupervisorsKarin Buhmann