FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOOD FOR EDUCATION FOUNDATION
Wawira Njiru is a visionary Kenyan entrepreneur, nutritionist, and philanthropist. She holds the reins as the driving force behind the Food for Education Foundation. As Founder and Executive Director, Wawira has undertaken an extraordinary journey, transforming the lives of thousands of young minds through a simple yet powerful mission: providing hot, nutritious, and affordable meals to over 33,000 public primary school children across Kiambu, Nairobi, and Mombasa counties.
Ms Njiru grew up in Ruiru, Kiambu County. Her formative years in this tight-knit community nurtured her spirit of compassion and instilled in her the values of hard work and perseverance. She embraced her primary and secondary education in local schools, laying the foundation for her inspiring future.
In 2010, Wawira’s aspirations led her to the University of South Australia in Adelaide, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Food Science degree, armed with the knowledge and determination to make a profound impact.
Ms Njiru’s transformative trajectory took a significant turn in 2012, during her undergraduate years. A Kenyan-themed fundraising dinner she hosted unveiled the spark that would ignite Food for Education’s creation. Gathering 80 guests and charging AUSI $20 per plate, she raised an impressive Ksh 126,000, laying the foundation for her grand vision.
Her brainchild, Food for Education, started modestly with a makeshift kitchen at Ruiru Primary School, where nourishing meals were provided to an initial 25 children. Through tireless efforts and innovative fundraising campaigns, the program flourished, reaching an increasing number of children yearning for sustenance.
Ms Njiru’s insight has paved the way for a cost-effective approach. Parents and/or guardians contribute Ksh 15 per meal, a gesture that is met with Food for Education’s gracious subsidy of an equal amount. This harmonious collaboration ensures that each school-going student is nourished with a wholesome meal, a feat made possible by recognising that it takes approximately KES 30 to provide sustenance to a young mind. Notably, all food is sourced directly from farmers, boosting local markets.
Implementing an innovative hub-and-spoke system has ingeniously streamlined Food for Education’s operations, creating a central hub for meal preparation and subsequently ensuring the seamless distribution of the meals to schools. This framework optimises the entire process, maximising efficiency while minimising any unnecessary complexities.
At the core of the Foundation’s operational strategy is Tap2Eat, a fintech-driven ethos facilitating smooth interactions. Through Tap2Eat, parents pay for the subsidised meals via mobile money. These funds are then transferred to a virtual wallet, intricately linked to a smart wristband enriched with near-field communication (NFC) technology. Students wear this wristband to effortlessly ‘tap to eat’ in a matter of five seconds. This harmonious integration of systems ensures not only efficient meal distribution but also underscores Food For Education’s commitment to leveraging technology for the betterment of young lives.
Since its inception, more than 21 million meals have been delivered, culminating in elevated nutrition levels, heightened school attendance, improved academic performance, and a notable increase in high school transition rates. The journey from a single makeshift kitchen to nourishing millions of smiles reflects Wawira’s unparalleled dedication and resilience.
Ms Njiru’s remarkable contributions have garnered well-deserved recognition, showcasing the profound impact of her endeavours. In 2018, Business Daily Africa honoured her as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Kenyan Women, celebrating her exceptional achievements. That very same year marked a historic milestone as she clinched the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership. Moreover, Avance Media’s acknowledgment of her as one of the 100 Most Influential Young Kenyans further solidified her enduring influence and left an indelible mark on society.
October 2021 witnessed Wawira adorning her cap with yet another illustrious feather, as she was bestowed the esteemed honour of UN Person of the Year.
Beyond her accomplishments lies Wawira Njiru’s selfless leadership, rooted in emotional intelligence and an unwavering commitment to humanity. Her journey exemplifies the potent fusion of compassion and strategy, sparking a ripple effect that has impacted countless lives. Food for Education stands as a testament to the power of a single individual’s vision, driven by a commitment to nourishing both bodies and minds.