IMMANA Fellow - Matilda Laar

PhD: Human Nutrition (McGill University, 2015)
Current Employment: Student at McGill University
Home mentor: Grace Marquis, McGill University (Canada)
Host mentor: Esi Colecraft, University of Ghana (Ghana)
Start date: October 1, 2015


Matilda Essandoh Laar, PHD is a postdoctoral fellow with the IMMANA fellowships at the Tufts University.  Dr Laar's research interests focus on maternal and childhood undernutrition, nutrition education in health systems, the role of agriculture in the food security of mothers and children, and the nutrition of households affected by maternal HIV in rural populations. Matilda received her Master of Public Health degree in 2010 from the University of Minnesota and a PhD in Human Nutrition (focus on International Nutrition) from McGill University, Canada in 2015. Her doctoral research focused on addressing local childhood undernutrition by building the capacity of health personnel in outreach growth monitoring services in a rural district in Ghana. Dr Laar’s IMMANA fellowship research aims to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of the Ghana School Feeding Program. This on-going study is looking at the feasibility of using the newly-developed monitoring tools of the program to assess the nutritional quality of meals and the link of the program to local agriculture.

Project Summary: 
School feeding is among the most universal form of nutrition intervention, aiming to improve both health and educational outcomes of children. In Ghana and elsewhere, school feeding follows a “home grown” approach to promote agricultural development through local food procurement from smallholder farmers. This study combines measurement of program impacts on schoolchildren with effects on local agriculture, using anthropometric and academic data on beneficiary children combined with procurement and farm data from agricultural suppliers. Interactions with farmers are measured using indicators developed by the World Food Programme for their local procurement activities, which are applied here for the first time to school procurement. The study aims to develop a single evaluation matrix from farm procurement to child nutrition, enabling school feeding programs to monitor performance and train staff to reach both objectives cost-effectively.

Project update:
Read Matilda's blog which looks at school feeding programmes in Ghana