Program of Brazil-FAO International Cooperation

Sustainable schools

Healthy and adequate school feeding, with products from family farming 

School feeding has stood out as a multi-sectoral policy, which has allowed participating countries to achieve their goals in various strategic areas; such as education, health, agriculture, social development, environment, territorial development and others. Therefore, it can be considered a cross-cutting policy in addressing poverty and other social issues, because it not only encourages the human development of students, improves eating habits, and ensures access to safe and adequate food; it also promotes the development of the local economy by purchasing food produced in the school's environment.

During the last four years (2012-2015), through the project Strengthening School Feeding Programs of the Brazil- FAO Cooperation Program, the initiative of Sustainable Schools has been carried out in eight countries, with the participation of 55,202 boys and girls in 226 schools.

The Sustainable Schools experience was designed to establish a reference point for the implementation of sustainable school feeding programs, based particularly on actions such as the involvement of the educational community; the adoption of healthy and adequate school meals; the implementation of educational school gardens; improvements made to kitchens, dining halls and storage rooms; and the direct purchase of local family farming products for school feeding.

In 2016, the project aims to expand its implementation to 5 additional countries in the Caribbean: Belize, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Granada and Jamaica.

Components for implementation

Inter-sectoral Coordination and Social Participation

The first step is the coordination of the main actors involved with public policies for school feeding- authorities at the governmental, departmental and municipal levels; the students and their families; teachers and directors of schools; and others involved. This coordination forms a solid foundation of sustainability for the actions carried out in the schools, and serves as a cross-cutting strategy in the process of formulating the Sustainable School Feeding Program (PAE Sostenibles, as it is known in Spanish).

Food and nutrition education- Educational school gardens

Another important aspect is the organization of actions for food and nutrition education, to be implemented through establishing educational school gardens; involving parents, students and especially teachers and school directors. The gardens are intended to facilitate student learning in a recreational and healthy manner, coordinated so as to include the different areas of knowledge. Furthermore, it guides students towards improving their eating habits and fosters a culture of healthy and proper nutrition.

Improvements to the school infrastructure

Improving the infrastructure of kitchens, dining halls and storage rooms is an important strategy to achieve food safety and a better quality of the products offered in school meals, as well as for food and nutrition education. This component has been planned and implemented with the participation and contribution of the school community, and together with national and local governments, thereby promoting territorial development and strengthening local civil society organizations.

The adoption of healthy, adequate and culturally appropriate school meals

A sustainable School Feeding Program should offer healthy food in adequate quantity and quality, using fresh products and in accordance with the culture and local food preference; allowing for optimization of the growth, development and health of the students. The development of appropriate menus is critical in this process.

For each country, a nutritional plan will be developed; based on the results of the Study on the Nutritional Status of Students (EENE), as well as information on the socioeconomic situation, the knowledge and practices of household consumption, the mapping of local agricultural production and food currently offered in schools. This information will be included in the development of adequate and healthy menus, using locally-produced food.

Direct purchases of food from local family farming

Based on the menu recommended by nutritionists, the food shall be purchased from local family farmers in order to ensure diversity and respect for the particular food culture. This allows school feeding to become a very important market for family farmers in the area. In addition, these purchases are organized with the participation of the community and promote local economic development and quality of life. Therefore, the program aims to diversify the students' diet, based on the consumption of fresh, healthy, locally-sourced food in school meals.

Some of the lessons learned from the implementation of Sustainable Schools

  • The strategies for eradicating poverty should be based on territorial development, with the involvement of the local community.
  • School feeding has promoted territorial organization, as a policy catalyst for local dynamics and collaborative action.
  • The policies of food and nutrition security have been promoted through the debates regarding school feeding programs, considering its scope and systematic nature.
  • The organization of local committees is essential for the development of any policy, including school feeding.
  • The sustainability of the social policies depends on the joint coordination of the diverse government actors.
  • The development of pilot projects in collaboration with the government, taking into account the local context, generates the replication of models and expands the policy at the local and national levels.
  • The supply of local food in school feeding has been very useful as a gradual learning process for the various actors involved in the process of direct purchasing of food from local family farmers.
  • Food and nutrition education is a way to address the indicators of obesity and malnutrition which have driven policies in various areas, especially within health and social development.