School food global hub

The Dominican Republic has a school meal programme that covers more than 2 million students through four different modalities. Currently, the country does not have legislation to control the sale of food and beverages in and around schools, however, it is an aspect that has been included in the draft law on school feeding.

School Food

School meals

Dominican Republic has a national school meal programme (programa de alimentación escolar – PAE in Spanish) managed by the Nutrition Department of the National Student Welfare Institute (INABIE), an entity of the Ministry of Education whose purpose is to guarantee the food and nutritional care of children, adolescents, young students and adults in the national educational system, as well as reduce its levels of absenteeism and school dropouts. Initially, the programme began with the provision of a glass of milk to schoolchildren, later moving on to providing School Breakfast following the General Education Law 66-97, Article 178 that establishes it. In 2013, the delivery of school lunches and afternoon snacks was incorporated into the Extended School Day (Jornada escolar extendida – JEE in Spanish) centres. Currently, the programme is implemented in all schools, covering more than 2 million students through four different modalities:

  • Border PAE: implemented in schools in the border regions of the country with rural, peri-urban or difficult-to-access areas. The nutritional value of the meals provided is approximately 25-30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of energy and nutrients for half a day, and 68% for the extended school day.
  • Rural PAEimplemented in schools in rural regions with difficult access and low resources. With this modality, schools receive money, as well as ingredients to prepare meals at school with family participation. The nutritional value of these meals is approximately 25-30% of the recommended daily intake of energy and nutrients for half a day, and 70% for the extended school day.
  • Urban PAE: implemented in schools in the urban region, providing a solid food portion and a dairy product in the morning and/or afternoon. The nutritional value of these food portions is approximately 20-25% of the recommended daily intake of energy and nutrients. The solid food portion, which can be bread or a biscuit, was designed for the programme and is enriched in iron, thiamine, vitamin A and vitamin D among other micronutrients, and has a higher protein content than a conventional bakery product.
  • Extended School Day PAE: representing approximately 85% of the school feeding modalities in the country, it provides a complete breakfast menu (25% of the RDI), and lunch (40% of the RDI). Menus vary by age group and region. The provision of snacks has currently been suspended due to the decision to reduce the sugar content within the programme. At this time, INABIE is evaluating a pilot initiative with different products to be included in the snack time (known as “merienda”) and has begun replacing the fruit nectars that used to be given as a snack with fresh fruit.

The modality depends on the school's infrastructure (presence of an on-site kitchen), the number of students served, the canteen space, as well as the availability of teachers to work on the programme.

Menu development

Currently, the Dominican Republic does not have official nutrition standards for school meals, but it follows criteria on the nutrition requirements that meals should provide (energy, minimum macro and micronutrients) by age groups (5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 years) from the World Health Organization. The menus, prepared by INABIE nutrition analysts, are calculated using these criteria and considering local cultural aspects. Menus follow the food-based dietary guidelines for the Dominican population to correctly include macro and micronutrients. The menus respond to the characteristics of each modality and are prepared in week cycles. The menu currently used for the Extended School Day programme follows a five-week cycle (with 25 combinations), while the Rural and Border programmes follow a four-week cycle.

School menus are usually updated twice a year, before the start of the school year (July-August) and mid-year (December-January). The latest updates have involved the exclusion of fruit nectars, the standardization of all recipes, the reduction of sodium, the reduction of fats and the creation of new recipes for the school meal programme cookbook.

Since most of the food supplied by the school meal programme comes from national production, and in many cases from small local producers and suppliers, INABIE in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture is carrying out a mapping exercise of local foods that will allow better adjustments of the menus to each region.

The country currently does not have any policy or law to regulate the sale of food and beverages in cafeterias within or outside schools. However, this aspect of the food environment regulation has been included in the draft law that has been presented to the Chamber of Deputies thanks to the ongoing collaboration between INABIE and FAO, which aims to create a legal and regulatory framework for school feeding.


Currently, INABIE is developing a training guide on school feeding and is reviewing the Food and Nutrition Education Manual (EAN) to strengthen the capacities of staff and other collaborators. Some of the activities linked to school feeding are:

  • Training of School Food and Nutrition Committees (CANE). These committees are formed by parents, students and the school community (teachers, school director, janitor) to ensure the proper functioning of the school meal programme. One of INABIE's future plans is to create a strategy between the Ministry of Education, parents and friend associations of the school and school committees so that training is led at the school level and does not depend exclusively on INABIE.
  • The transformation of cafeterias into healthy establishments, reducing and/or eliminating unhealthy foods from the school environment and replacing them with more nutritious options.

Since 2018, INABIE has received support through the FAO-Brazil cooperation within the sustainable schools project, which began in Monte Plata. Since 2021, INABIE has been part of the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES) which has provided technical advice on aspects of school feeding and food and nutrition education. Starting in 2022, the implementation of the FAO-INABIE project began with the purpose of strengthening the concept of sustainable schools, which consists of six main components:

  1. Exchange of experiences, good practices, and lessons learned with different countries on the implementation of school meal programmes.
  2. Link with the purchase of family agriculture for the school meal programme.
  3. Inclusion of a rainwater harvesting system in schools for consumption and preparation of dishes.
  4. Methodological package for food and nutrition education (an initial diagnosis has already been carried out in 36 project schools – pending publication).
  5. Inclusion of gastronomy in school feeding. This is being carried out through gastronomic laboratories (activities to be defined).
  6. The creation of a food laboratory at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo for INABIE analyses.

This initiative is carried out in 5 of the 18 educational regions in the country (Santiago, La Vega, Monteplata, San Juan and Azua). A national micronutrient survey will soon be carried out with schoolchildren, women of childbearing age and children under 5 years to make decisions regarding the improvement of the school meal programme. Other activities planned are the improvement of the infrastructure of the 36 schools involved in the diagnosis to include kitchens and capacity development sessions with the school food and nutrition committees.

Monitoring and evaluation

INABIE's technical food and nutrition management team is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the school meal programme through the supervision and training of food suppliers, as well as the implementation of a Comprehensive System for Food and Nutritional Monitoring of Schoolchildren (SISVANE).

INABIE created this system in 2014 to measure the impact of the school meal programme on the nutritional status of schoolchildren, as well as to promote healthy eating habits in schools. This system is currently implemented in four educational regions. When a malnourished student is detected, a nutritional supplement based on prebiotics (drink) is provided for three months. For the correct implementation of the monitoring system, INABIE developed a SISVANE teaching guide for the school personnel. Since 2023, the teachers have been included in this system to monitor their nutritional status through anthropometric measurements.

In 2022, INABIE in conjunction with the Ministry of Public Health carried out a national nutritional assessment in 53 schools from the meal programme  (ENPARD Report) finding that 31% of schoolchildren were overweight or obese, and 3% of students were underweight. Among other aspects, they also found that in 4 of the 18 educational regions, only 18% of schoolchildren were consuming fruits daily, something that had already been observed by SISVANE. INABIE therefore decided to increase the percentage of fruits and vegetables in school menus. This study also identified the need to strengthen food and nutrition education within the programme, hence the close collaboration with the FAO-Brazil cooperation and the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES)


School-Based Food and Nutrition Education

Relevant links



Victor Castro, director ejecutivo del Instituto Nacional de Bienestar Estudiantil de República Dominicana, evalúa que es necesario fortalecer cada vez más esta política en el país y institucionalizarla.


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El proyecto Consolidación de Programas de Alimentación Escolar en América Latina y el Caribe, realizado en el marco de la Cooperación Internacional Brasil-FAO, participó de una misión técnica a República Dominicana entre el 13 y el 17 de junio.


En el 2014, el INABIE crea el Sistema de Integral para la Vigilancia Alimentaria y Nutricional del Escolar (SISVANE), con el objetivo de medir el impacto nutricional del PAE en los escolares, así como fomentar hábitos alimentarios saludables y gestionar la atención de los escolares con malnutrición.


El proyecto regional de alimentación escolar de la Cooperación Internacional Brasil-FAO llevó a cabo una misión técnica internacional en la República Dominicana con la participación de 10 países, del 13 al 17 de marzo. Fueron  presentados contenidos teóricos y desarrolladas actividades en ca...

On 7 March 2023, the Executive Director of the National Institute of Student Welfare (INABIE) of the Dominican Republic, Mr Victor Castro, accompanied by a delegation from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), submitted a bill on School Food and Nutrition to t...