Program of Brazil-FAO International Cooperation

Schools in Latin America and the Caribbean are equipped to ensure safe food for students

Joint strategy with ABC, FNDE, UNDP and FAO allowed the acquisition of kits to strengthen security in the preparation and conservation of food in schools.

Brasilia, Brasil, on 27th April - The return to schools in the pandemic represents also an opportunity for many students to ensure a nutritious and healthy meal. However, the reality of this return has been marked by concern for safety, especially in the handling, conservation and preparation of school meals. 

In order to guarantee the safety of millions of children, as well as the food they consume in the school environment, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE), the National Fund for Educational Development (FNDE), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized actions under the “Joint Strategy to Strengthen Sustainable School Feeding Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) - safe environment during and post-pandemic ”.  

The initiative was implemented within the framework of the Sustainable School Feeding Network (Red de Alimentación Escolar Sostenible-RAES) with 11 countries in the region: Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Peru, Paraguay, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

The RAES network was created by the Brazilian government in 2018, within the framework of the United Nations Decade of Action for Nutrition (2016-2025), to support partner countries in the implementation and reformulation of school feeding programs, based on access and guaranteeing the human right to adequate food. 

The Joint Strategy, carried out under the projects “South-South Cooperation for the Strengthening of Sustainable School Feeding Programs in Developing Countries” and “Consolidation of School Feeding Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean”, aimed to stimulate and facilitate the planning and implementation of a safe school reopening process, according to regulations and protocols prepared by the education and health authorities of each country. 

A remote event, divided into two days, marked the end of the first phase of the activities scheduled for the Joint Strategy: the delivery of kits for hand hygiene (washbasins), conservation (refrigerators), and supply and food preparation (kitchen utensils). These items were selected by each of the 600 schools benefited in the 11 countries based on their specific needs. The kits will serve to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19 through appropriate hand hygiene practices, and to promote the offer of healthy food, marked by the consumption of fresh products, rich in vitamins and other nutrients that favor the promotion of students' health. 

The Joint Strategy will also have, in phase II, training activities for professionals in subjects such as safety, quality and hygiene protocols in the implementation of school feeding programs in the context of pandemic and post-pandemic. 

Latin America 

On April 13, a virtual event to finalize the delivery of kits to six countries in Latin America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic) was held, with the presence of about 80 participants. Among them were representatives of each country and authorities of the Brazilian government and partner organizations. 

Ambassador Ruy Pereira, director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), opened the ceremony recalling that the conclusion of this first phase of the Joint Strategy effectively reflected a new meaning for the verb cooperate, especially in the context of the pandemic. The director pointed out that, in the current and complex scenario, school meals gain even more relevance in strategic decisions.  

“In our Trilateral South-South Cooperation with International Organizations, the theme of school meals has always been considered a priority and it is fundamental for the fight against hunger, for the economic development, through the dynamization of productive chains linked to family farming, and also for the promotion of the Human Right to Food”. He also highlighted the role of FNDE in sharing the National School Feeding Program (PNAE), with its 66 years of existence, through international cooperation projects. 

According to Bruno Costa, representative of FNDE, the acquisition of kits is part of a process that has already been carried out between the Brazilian government and the countries of the region, with the support of FAO and UNDP. “This is the result of a great partnership to strengthen the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES), which proved to be especially relevant, in the context of the pandemic, to guarantee the reduction of poverty as an impact of COVID-19 ”. 

Katyna Argueta, UNDP's resident representative in Brazil, said that school feeding programs guarantee food for about 85 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean. Food is considered one of the main human rights, alongside education, and Argueta recalled that both rights were negatively impacted due to the closure of schools during the pandemic. She pointed out that a safe return to classes is only possible with the active participation of the directors and employees of schools and local communities. “This event is a recognition of the efforts of everyone who worked to improve local public policy and is an integrated response to the challenges of the pandemic. ” 

Rafael Zavala, FAO's representative in Brazil, stated that cooperation between the government of Brazil, through ABC and FNDE, with UNDP, FAO and governments of beneficiary countries crystallizes solidarity and gives a new meaning to cooperation on the continent. "It is a strong shout, led by Brazil, for countries to prioritize and promote school feeding programs as broad-spectrum public policies".  

Zavala also said that, in addition to distributing healthy food in schools, these public policies promote economic inclusion through the public purchase of products from family farming, promote social inclusion through the participation of parents and communities, and boost the creation of jobs, mainly for women. The FAO's representative highlighted the need to build short food circuits to strengthen territorial identity through the consumption of local foods. He reaffirmed FAO's commitment to continue promoting public policies aimed at food and nutritional security, seeking sustainable development. 

The representative of the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, Jeannette Cacacho, reinforced that, as in other countries in the region and in Brazil, the school feeding program in the country was not suspended during the pandemic. "We continue to deliver food in bags to families, benefiting 2.5 million students." 


The formal delivery of kits to Caribbean countries (Belize, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines) took place on April 20, and was attended by the focal points of those countries, as well as ambassadors from Brazil in the Caribbean capitals. 

The general coordinator of the National School Feeding Program (PNAE) of the FNDE, Karine Santos, spoke about the importance of the Joint Strategy in the framework of the strengthening of the school feeding programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, giving an overview of how PNAE acts on different frontlines. 

Karine pointed out that the program aims to support countries in their school feeding policies through various actions, such as the exchange of experiences, courses in distance learning, online events, in addition to continuous reinforcement for the implementation of the objectives that make up sustainable schools. One of them is the attention to infrastructure and the provision of kitchen equipment and utensils for schools. “It was on this item of infrastructure that we reflected and, from a decision in the face of the pandemic scenario, in the beginning of 2020, we understood that it would be important to move forward with this theme within the cooperation project with FAO and UNDP. Therefore, we started to plan, prepare and execute this action in the year 2020”, she said. 

The director of educational actions of the FNDE, Garigham Amarante, said that the success of the action in 600 schools in the 11 participating countries serves as a model for future actions within the scope of South-South cooperation. "This action strengthens the understanding that the infrastructure in the provision of school meals is as important for schools as the provision of food". 

Currell Thompson, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, stressed that the equipment served to help the country in the need to strengthen the local school infrastructure. Thompson said the country's goal is to create and strengthen a long-term network with new partners, and to prepare the country for the new scenario, with the return of students to schools. 

On April 9, St. Vincent and the Grenadines suffered with the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, forcing the evacuation of 20.000 people. The event was remembered by the director of ABC, ambassador Ruy Pereira, who took the opportunity to express all the solidarity of Brazilian cooperation for the humanitarian and economic crisis that the Caribbean island is experiencing. "We are examining possibilities for humanitarian assistance to the populations of this brother country, affected by this great natural disaster."