SE135 Investing in schools for sustainable nutrition impact: Using schools to transform food systems and promote double duty actions for improved nutrition

Organizers

  • United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN)
  • UN Network (UNN) Secretariat
  • WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger
  • FAO
  • Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC)

One in three people globally is malnourished. Trends predict that this will soon become one in two people if we continue business as usual, with negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of populations.

Given the steep rise in the double burden of malnutrition among school-aged children and the potential this population holds for establishing healthy and sustainable lifestyles and eating habits, schools represent an important entry point for better nutrition. This event will frame schools as a specific food system and discuss the types of double duty actions* that can be implemented.

The Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) is run by the National Fund for Education Development (FNDE) and has proven itself as a significant source of good practices in the area. In 2018, FNDE launched a toolkit aimed at improving transparency, participation and monitoring of school feeding provision in Brazil. Among these tools, one of the most innovative is e-PNAE - an app that allows parents, students, teachers, nutritionists, school feeding counsellors and community members to follow and evaluate the quality of school meals offered in all public schools in the country. Alongside this app, the government also developed a tool called "Monitoring PNAE", which aims to standardize in loco monitoring of the programme across Brazil. Another experience in Latin America stands out. In 2017, the Dominican Republic launched the Comprehensive System for Food and Nutritional Surveillance of Schoolchildren (SISVANE) at the Preschool, Primary and Secondary levels of Public Education Centres. This system is used to monitor school feeding's nutritional impact and to address different forms of malnutrition, particularly obesity. Both nutritionists and physical educators use this online platform to follow-up on students' health and nutrition indicators - anthropometric measures, food consumption, sociodemographic situation and physical activity.

In Senegal, an innovative app called Nutrifami was recently introduced with support from WFP. The app targets school directors and cooks and includes illustrations and guidance on storage, hygiene and nutrition. One of the most interesting features of this tool is the use of audio recordings in Wolof (which makes it accessible for illiterate users). By exploring these examples of good practices in improving nutrition standards through school feeding, this side-event will foster south-south exchanges, while feeding into the development of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition. The later will be done by highlighting coherent policies and actions where schools have been an entry point for food system transformation.

*Note: Double duty actions are interventions, programmes and policies that have the potential to simultaneously address undernutrition, overweight, obesity and diet-related NCDs.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Opening remarks by Cornelia Richter, UNSCN Chair and Vice-President of IFAD Keynote speech by Bibi Giyose, Senior Nutrition and Food Systems Officer and Special Advisor to the CEO, NEPAD
  • Interview session moderated by Lauren Landis, Nutrition Director, WFP and member of SUN Executive Committee

Panelists:

  • Teresa Borelli, Programme Specialist, Bioversity International
  • Maria Fernanda Nogueira Bittencourt, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Education
  • Karine Santos, Director of Educational Actions, FNDE, Brazilian Ministry of Education
  • Abdoulaye Ka, National Coordinator of Cellule de Lutte contre la Malnutrition (CLM) and SUN Government Focal Point for Senegal
  • Eli Aníbal Morales, Community leader, Honduras

Main themes/issues discussed

The concerning rise of hunger and its coexistence with multiple forms of malnutrition urge us to transform our food systems to promote healthy and sustainable diets;

How school environments offer great potential to fight the steep rise of the double burden of malnutrition among school-age children, through school feeding, by promoting healthy and sustainable diets and good nutrition;

The need to have a broader and more integrated approach to child development. An approach that goes beyond the first 1,000 days, up to 8,000 days (the life cycle approach) and how this impacts on nutrition-sensitive school-based policy and
programming for all school-age children;
 
The increase of evidence to prove the multiple benefits of well-designed school feeding programmes and how more evidence is still needed;

The importance of nutrition education at all levels (farmers, producers, teachers, consumers) to strengthen knowledge and awareness about traditional crops and how they can be integrated into school feeding programs

The need to build programmes around multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coalitions, that involve: (1) all levels and areas of government acting in coordination for better implementation; (2) space for school communities (parents, teachers, students, local producers) to assist in programme monitoring and oversight; (3) space to engage potential partners from the private sector; and (4) opportunities to engage local universities in the monitoring of these programmes.

Opportunities that modern technology brings to improve nutrition-sensitive school- based programming to help reach more children and safeguard their nutritional status and future earning potential.

Summary of key points

The event´s focus was on presenting practical examples of how different countries have implemented school feeding programmes and what innovations they have applied to make these programmes nutrition sensitive. Further, the diversity of presenters – from governments, academia, international organizations and civil society organizations – allowed for different perspectives on school feeding and nutrition issues.

Speakers highlighted school feeding programmes´ potential to promote healthier diets and better nutrition among school-age children and their families. They have also pointed out how this type of programme has transcended from anecdotal evidence and went from being considered a variant of social transfer to being proven as a way to foster child development and the prosperity of nations.

However, school feeding´s long-term results can only be sustained through:

  1. A life cycle approach, that looks at child development beyond their first 1,000 days of life;
  2. Smart programme design, that tackles interrelated nutrition issues;
  3. Secured and continuous financing, that guarantees programme maintenance and scale up;
  4. Actions that promote community ownership, direct participation and that are tailored to local food culture;
  5.  Multi-sectoral/stakeholder coordination within governments and with external partners;
  6. Nutrition education at all levels
  7. Training and capacity building for governments;
  8. Strong legal and policy frameworks;
  9. Efficient monitoring systems; and
  10. Benchmarking through south-south cooperation.

Key take away messages

School feeding programmes have been looked at with skepticism for many years, considered as social transfers with no long-term impacts. The cases shared by Brazil, Senegal, Honduras and AUDA - that works with more than 20 countries implementing home-grown school feeding in Africa – prove that these are, in fact, very future oriented programmes. Nutrition-sensitive school policy and interventions are an investment in children, their families, their communities and their nations, and help to maximize the potential of other nutrition investments during their first 1,000 days of life.

The panelists in this side event come from countries with very different contexts and socioeconomic indicators. Still, they have shared many common challenges, lessons learned and, most of all, a common denominator in seeing the multiple benefits of nutrition-smart school interventions on the ground.

Lessons learned:

  1. Schools offer a great opportunity to transform food systems and focusing on school-children provides a win-win solution for improving diets in childhood so they can grow into healthy adults, and healthy parents -interrupting the generational cycle of malnutrition.
  2. It is important to take a very strategic approach to increase the evidence base around the benefits of school feeding;
  3. Good programmes are built with a systemic approach, which starts with the law and that translates into coherent multi-sectoral policy, strategy and action;
  4. Budget has to be constantly allocated. Without strategic partnerships, involving private sector, local producers, among others, these initiatives will not have as much impact and will not have as much momentum.
  5. The future of school feeding programmes is in new technologies that provide constant evidence through programme monitoring.
CFS 46 Side Event: SE135 Investing in schools for sustainable nutrition impact

 

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