Participants met with local government authorities and those responsible for school feeding from different sectors
Brasilia, June 22, 2022 – The project Consolidation of School Feeding Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean project, carried out within the framework of the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme, participated in a technical mission to the Dominican Republic between June 13 and 17. On the agenda were meetings with authorities from different levels of government, parliamentarians, technicians, officers responsible for school feeding and representatives of the National Institute of Student Welfare (INABIE, for its acronym in Spanish).
The FAO Food and Nutritional Security Officer, Daniela Godoy, the FAO Regional Nutrition Officer, Israel Ríos, and the regional coordinator of the aforementioned project, Najla Veloso, were part of technical mission, invited by the local government and by FAORD.
One of the objectives of the mission was to give visibility to the alliance between the local FAO and INABIE based on the project ‘Healthy school environments through innovative strategies to strengthen the school feeding programme’. Another goal was to provide technical support to strengthen strategic alliances in the country to integrate key actors in school feeding at the national and local levels, from the public, private and academic sectors.
Challenges and opportunities to improve school feeding in the country were identified during the mission, as the country is reviewing and updating its school feeding programme. “Having this accompaniment and exchange allows us to acquire experiences that have already given results in other countries,” said Víctor Castro, executive director of INABIE. “We are convinced that after the adjustments to the realities of our country, it will be possible to have improve the quality of food, which is the desire of all of us”, Castro stressed, noting that 1.8 million students are served by this policy in the country.
Among the aspects to be strengthened in the program is the expansion of the Sustainable Schools methodology, developed by the Brazil-FAO Cooperation since 2014 in the Dominican Republic. There are more than 23,000 Sustainable Schools in Latin America and the Caribbean nowadays. The importance of promoting public purchases from family farming, the implementation of food and nutrition education, the adoption of school gardens, the improvement of school infrastructure and, above all, the improvement of the quality of food offered in schools were also highlighted.
One of the activities of the mission was a visit to the Víctor Estrella Liz Polytechnic School, in Santo Domingo, and to the Mata Limón School, in Monte Plata, where the implementation of the school feeding policy could be observed. It was possible to listen to the suggestions and recommendations of the students to improve this policy.
The mission also met with family farmers at the Casa Sombras institution, located in the Monte Plata region, to discuss public purchases. Israel Ríos-Castillo, FAO Nutrition Officer, advocated for the inclusion of healthy foods in the school, especially purchased from local family farmers.
“With this, it is possible to bring the rural producer closer to school and improve the diet of the students, with fruits and vegetables.” Castillo talked about the importance of passing laws that strengthen these policies and guarantee these public purchases. “There are very important conditions here to promote and strengthen school feeding: political will and intersectoral coordination,” summarized Daniela Godoy, FAO Food and Nutritional Security Officer.
Rodrigo Castañeda, FAO Representative in the Dominican Republic, added that school feeding is “fundamental to ensure a healthy diet for students by improving menus and supporting local production and family farming, incorporating public purchases of fresh products.”
“We firmly believe in the exchange of experiences and knowledge to strengthen and consolidate school feeding in the Dominican Republic and throughout the region,” said Najla Veloso. “We reiterate our commitment to support the Dominican Republic and we value the willingness to develop legal frameworks to strengthen this programme and consolidate the guarantee of the human right to adequate food for all students.”
A visit to the Parliament of the Dominican Republic to dialogue with the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (FPH) was also organized. The topics covered were the human rights-based approach to school feeding and the importance of legal and regulatory frameworks to strengthen this policy. The FPH promised to prepare a project of school feeding law, which will have the support of the FAO and the Brazilian Cooperation.
During a visit to the Ministry of Health, members of the mission reaffirmed the importance of implementing the food and nutrition education, developing plans to monitor food quality and conducting research on student health.
Among the programmed institutional commitments are the construction of a technical assistance work plan for FAO and INABIE, the organization of a technical visit to Brazil for the exchange of experiences, and the joint elaboration of a bill of school feeding together with the Dominican Congress.
Content produced for the website of the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme