Nourishing bodies and minds

Farmers, families, schools work together to boost child nutrition

Dulce benefits from a growing school-feeding initiative, which covers more than 400 schools across Guatemala and aims to reach up to 35,000 in the future. ©Pep Bonet/NOOR for FAO


“I feel very proud of our school garden and I would like for every school to have one.”

Dulce María Díaz Pérez is 12 years old and loves to read. She also likes to garden. Dulce, a sixth-grade student in Tejutla, San Marcos, in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, is learning about sustainable farming, nutrition and more, through the backyard garden at her school.

“The school garden is a space where we can learn many things,” Dulce says.

Dulce’s school garden is part of a nationwide nutrition-sensitive school feeding initiative which links schools, local family farmers and parents associations to provide nutritious and varied meals to school children across the country. It follows the Sustainable Healthy Schools model from the Brazil-FAO  International and South-South Cooperation Programme  in the region and was first introduced in Guatemala in 2014. 

These initiatives have been enhanced by Guatemala’s first-ever school-feeding law, which came into effect in 2018 following efforts made by the Guatemalan Chapter of the Parliamentary Front against Hunger and FAO. This achievement was the result of significant inter-sectorial and institutional coordination, consensus-building with key sectors, and evidence-based advocacy.

Left: Members of a farmers’ association that supplies Rural School Village El Horizonte and 62 other schools with a variety of nutritious food including chard, carrots, radishes, bananas, apples, cabbage, corn and beans, eggs, cheese and honey. ©Pep Bonet/NOOR for FAO Right: A teacher with children in the medicinal garden. Plants here include peppermint, chamomile, basil and mint. ©Pep Bonet/NOOR for FAO

“Before this project started we had to queue for a long time to get food, and the meals or snacks were repetitive and not that healthy. Now they are more varied, more nutritious, and more delicious.”

Dulce comes from a family of small-scale farmers, who also work as truck drivers and mechanics to boost their incomes. Her grandfather produces the maize for tortillas used to prepare her favorite school meal back at home, tamales with vegetables.

Despite their link with the land, many farming families suffer from malnutrition and other health problems due to a lack of nutrition and access to adequate income and healthcare. Like many women, Dulce’s mother died due to childbirth complications, following delivery of Dulce’s baby brother. 

School meals are prepared by volunteer mothers who have been trained in nutrition, handling and preparation of food, good hygiene practices and other skills. ©Pep Bonet/NOOR for FAO

The school-feeding initiative aims to promote healthy and culturally-sensitive menus and public purchases of produce from local family farmers. It encourages parent and community involvement, improved dining and kitchen infrastructure and cooperation across various public and private sectors.

The school garden has helped Dulce and her classmates to develop a greater respect for food by showing them what it takes to grow and harvest even one vegetable.

By investing in the whole community, FAO is empowering families, down to the youngest, to take action and be a part of the global Zero Hunger effort.

Learn more:

2. Zero hunger, 3. Good health and well-being