This paper takes as a starting point the proposition that social protection interventions involving food can be used to promote transformational change in family farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose is to highlight the complexity of pathways to agricultural transformation associated with the seemingly simple idea of home-grown school feeding (HGSF), an idea that is increasingly held up as “win–win”.
By reviewing the HGSF literature and the main theories underpinning it – structured demand, localism, family farmer development – we expose areas of inconsistency across the literature and programmes as well as possible tensions that may arise in attempting to pursue both market and social objectives in the same initiative. The arguments presented herein aim to provide a basis for moving towards clarity on:
- a theory of change for HGSF programmes;
- the conditions under which HGSF programmes are more able to yield positive agricultural development outcomes and;
- an agenda for moving forward on research and impact evaluation.
This research agenda also speaks more broadly to important under-researched areas within the general social protection and agricultural development discourse.