Education on a Plate – Tunza Labs


As soon as the math teacher steps into the classroom, the children shuffle into their seats and take their books out. It is about to be a long double lesson. *Njoki looks out of the window into the big grassy playing field where she spent the last hour running around, kicking a ball made out of layers and layers of plastic paper bags. This is the highlight of her day; every day after eating lunch, she spends time, so full of energy, playing outside. It is her favorite part of the day because she remembers a time, as recently as last term, where this daily routine didn’t exist.

As the teacher starts writing sums on the board, Njoki recalls that her lunch hour during the previous term would be spent walking home to eat lunch, and then walking back before afternoon lessons began. Though happy to see her mum in the middle of the day, she would get back to class exhausted from the long walk. Afternoons were spent battling sleep. On the days she didn’t go home, the afternoon would be spent trying to suppress the grumbling noises of her empty stomach.

Now, Njoki turns her focus back to Grade 3 mathematics, fiddling fondly with the bright orange wristband that reassures her that tomorrow, too, her favorite routine will start off with a hot meal.

Tunza – Care for

Every day, millions of children across the world go to school on an empty stomach. Most of them come from families living below the poverty line, and a meal a day is more than they can expect. Hunger affects their ability to concentrate and learn, and in the cases of malnutrition, it stunts physical and mental development. According to the World Food Program, school meal programmes can help address many of these challenges. They are a multisectoral game changer that improve children’s education, health and nutrition. More broadly, they support the whole community by providing an important safety net, and by strengthening food systems and economies.

ewton Muchira, through Tunza Labs, is working to break the poverty cycle through education. By providing a digital platform for parents, guardians and other stakeholders to pay for hot, nutritious and most importantly – affordable meals, he is leveling the playing field. Children from less privileged families are getting the opportunity to focus on learning. Just like Njoki, their lives are changing, one meal at a time.

“In the long run, this is the best way to eradicate poverty. If a kid is innovative and creative, and more receptive to education, that is the way we are going to break the poverty cycle.”

The tech way

As a techie, Muchira built the school feeding program with a dual technology approach. Using both blockchain technology and Near Field Communication (NFC), they have created a smooth and seamless process, from registration to digestion (so to speak).

Here is how it works:

Using a USSD code, parents register and create an e-wallet that they then use to load money for the daily meals. The Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) system was chosen specifically to cater for parents who do not have smartphones. Once the wallet is set up, the child is registered as well. This process, done from school, collects the child’s data and biometric info. With this, they are fitted with a brand new wristband. The wristband uses Near Field Communication and a scanner to deduct 25 shillings daily to cater for the meal.

Every morning, as the pupil leaves home, they are given a food container. During lunch time, they all line up, containers in hand, making up an eclectic queue of old ice cream containers and multi-coloured tiffin boxes carried in small, eager hands. Their orange wristbands are scanned, and the cost for the day deducted. They are then served a hot, freshly cooked and nutritious meal. This meal carries them through an afternoon of classes that they can now focus on.

All the ingredients for the meals are sourced from local farmers. For now, the Tunza initiative is running in Kirinyaga, with a central kitchen that is within a 10km radius of all the schools they serve. Labour is also sourced from the area; workers who are paid on a wage system and dedicate four hours of their day to prepare, transport and serve the meals.

A little backstory… 

In the course of undertaking his degree in Informatics and Computer Science, Muchira the student (as he referred to himself), undertook his Service Based Learning at a public school in Ruiru. St. George’s school has specific classes that catered for children with special needs. He says he chose this school because he feels a strong connection to children with disabilities. His sister has Cerebral Palsy, which is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. He saw her in the kids in this school.

Every day during his attachment,  Muchira would take his lunch break outside of school. However, one day he opted to stay behind and promptly observed that a significant number of the children didn’t go for lunch. When he inquired why, one little girl told him that her home was over ten kilometers away, and to get lunch, she’d have to walk all the way there and back. The state of things pulled at Muchira’s heartstrings. He expressed that, having gone to private schools, he didn’t know how bad it could be at the schools with no feeding programs.

And thus, the Tunza initiative was born, as a CSR activity under his startup, Tunza Labs.

He sold the idea to his partners, three equally innovative young entrepreneurs and former highschool classmates. Now, he says, he sometimes thinks they are more invested in the idea than he is. Newton is the founder, CEO and crypto enthusiast of the team. Lincoln, an entrepreneur and founder of an ecommerce milkshake stop is the Chief Operating Officer. Immanuel, a BBIT student in Strathmore stands as the Chief Technology Officer and finally, Roy, their marketing guru. Together, they have discovered that they work well, all equally driven and committed to the vision of Tunza.

Happy tummies everywhere

One of the main goals of Tunza is to scale operations while reducing the cost that each parent pays per meal. As it is now, they pay 25 shillings, but the goal is to bring it down to as low as 5 shillings per meal. Plans are underway to build a kitchen that can produce over 500,000 meals at a time, with the eventual goal of feeding more than 1 million children across the country.

The initiative embodies its name. They continue to bring care on a plate, enabling children to learn and reach their full potential. Currently, Tunza is providing over 90,000 meals a day. To learn more about the initiative, please visit

*Njoki is a fictional character

This article was written by Celia Kinuthia.

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via


See more news