Strengthening School Feeding Programs in the Framework of the Zero Hunger Initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean 2025
The experience in Brazil of its National School Feeding Program (PNAE, for its acronym in Portuguese) has been recognized for over 60 years, especially by developing countries, as a point of reference for its sustainability, quality, progress and challenges; thus allowing for the provision of necessary support to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The lessons learned in Brazil with school feeding were based on several key elements, such as program coverage; systematization and continuity of supply; quality of food offered at the schools; comprehensive program regulations; nutritional recommendations; public oversight; procurement of food from family farming; construction of on-site and virtual support systems; monitoring and evaluation; decentralized management; mechanisms and educational tools for food and nutrition through school gardens, among others. The scope of this collaborative implementation includes the participation of 5,570 municipalities and 27 states, assisting 43 million students per day for 200 school days. The PNAE also highlights the model of school feeding as part of the human right to food, prompting discussion on the processes of food assistance still present in many countries.
Within the framework of the international cooperation agreement (Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Program), signed in 2008 between the Federal Government of Brazil and the FAO, the regional project was created in 2009; seeking to strengthen the availability of school feeding programs in Latin American and Caribbean countries, with the aim of promoting the formulation and implementation of sustainable school feeding programs based on the experience in Brazil.
International technical cooperation for school feeding, carried out by Brazil and represented by the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE) and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), includes the FAO's important role in developing the strategy, with the support of key counterparts who share their experiences and contribute to strengthening the goal of sustainability. The main role is the sharing of knowledge and successful experiences, contributing to training in human resources, in order to strengthen the institutions of the cooperating countries and their respective policies.
EXPANDING THE PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION
The project Strengthening School Feeding Programs began in 2009 in five countries. Its activities were expanded throughout the years of implementation, reaching 17 countries. Activities are currently underway in 13 countries in the region: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABILITY OF THE ACTIONS
- Coordination between the various government sectors;
- Strengthening of institutional capacities of decision-makers and technicians;
- Creation of legal frameworks for the implementation of school feeding programs;
- Guarantee of the availability of school feeding as a human, socio-political and state right;
- Coordination and strengthening of school feeding policies, such as a public market for the purchase of food from family farming;
- Civil society and parliamentary participation;
- Promotion of public oversight.
Inclusion of the countries: the interested countries must send a request to the Brazilian government, which is then analyzed and approved by the steering committee, comprised of FNDE, ABC and FAO.
Institutional coordination: the first methodological strategy is to promote awareness and coordination among the local authorities and technical agents of the ministries involved, following the principle that school feeding programs need to be planned and carried out in a cross-sectoral manner and coordinated with other local policies.
Formation of local Technical Committees: the local technical committees are comprised of focal points of the governments and of FAO, assigned by the ministers and/or local authorities, for the respective management and supervision of the proposed and approved activities. The Technical Committee in each country meets periodically, under the leadership of the focal point of the Brazil-FAO Cooperation for School Feeding in the countries, along with the regional coordinator of the project. They also have the support of other specialists.
Creation of regional and national Annual Operational Programs (POA): in order to organize the actions of the project, National Plans and Regional Annual Operational Plans (POA) are created. The regional POA envisions actions to be carried out by the project's coordination in order to ensure the exchange of experiences between countries, along with the general development in the region, the production of management reports, and reports on good practices. The national POA are elaborated by the local technical committees of each country and the actions are carried out under the responsibility of these committees. Both programs are subject to approval and their proposed activities must be in accordance with the actual request of each country, respecting their reality and sovereignty.
Systematic meetings of the local technical committee: the project encourages systematic meetings of the technical committees in participating countries, in order to elaborate and accompany the implementation of planned activities, as well as find solutions to any inconvenience which may arise.
Main activities developed and keys results
Implementation of Sustainable Schools: the Sustainable Schools experience was designed to establish a point of reference for the implementation of sustainable school feeding programs, based particularly on activities such as the involvement of the educational community; the adoption of healthy and culturally appropriate school meals, created from a nutritional plan, along with the study carried out on the Nutritional Status of Students (EENE); the implementation of educational school gardens; improvements made to kitchens, dining rooms and pantries; and the direct purchase of family farming products for school feeding.
Online course School Feeding: Developing Sustainable Programs based on the experience in Brazil: aimed at agents and professionals involved in School Feeding Programs, within the scope of Food and Nutrition Security and agriculture, professionals and students in related areas (nutrition, education, agriculture, among others), and those interested in the topic.
Technical support for food and nutrition education: the project offers small on-site courses. In the countries, the strategy of promoting school gardens has been adopted as an educational tool, enabling the implementation of food and nutrition educational activities.
Exchange of experiences and expertise: the exchange and shared use of experiences is an important strategy to present the advances of the implemented activities, or in the school feeding policies carried out in the countries.
National studies and regional outlook: case studies were carried out within the scope of the project, regarding the topic of school feeding and the possibilities for direct purchasing from family farming in eight countries in Latin America, and in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. These studies have been used as inputs for decision-makers in the region, as the realities of School Feeding policies have already been systematized; sparking the interest of other international organizations, governments, NGOs and parliaments regarding this topic.
- Establishment of sustainable School Feeding Programs within the context of the human right to food;
- School Feeding Programs ensured as social and governmental policies, developed through continuous and systematic programs, with resources guaranteed by the governments and with the participation of various stakeholders;
- Institutional capacity strengthening for decision-makers and technicians involved in school feeding policies;
- Coordination of those policies with other policies, programs and activities which strengthen food security in the partner countries;
- Strengthening of school feeding policies, such as a public market for the purchase of locally produced food from family farming;
- Sharing of successful experiences in order to strengthen the discussion on school feeding, within the scope of educational policies for food and nutrition security;
- Promotion of food and nutrition education as a curricular component, using school gardens as an educational tool;
- Participation of other sectors of society such as civil society (through NGOs), associations, cooperatives and parliament (through coordinated management of laws and other legal frameworks);
- Promotion of public oversight through the active participation of local school communities.