Over the course of a week, delegations from 10 countries received information on regulatory frameworks, and policy implementation, and visited public schools and local family farmers’ production areas.
BRASILIA, September 6, 2022 – “The school feeding policy is our pride. Because it is considered unquestionable, permanent and with multiple benefits“, highlighted the deputy director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), ambassador Luiza Lopes da Silva, during the opening of the technical mission to Brazil of government representatives from 10 countries and institutions from Latin America and the Caribbean, to learn about the implementation of the Brazilian school feeding policy.
Present were representatives from Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru, as well as members of the rural development program of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the department of agriculture and economics of the University of the West Indies.
From August 29th to September 2nd, the international delegation participated in an intensive agenda in the city of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, organized by the trilateral South-South cooperation project “Consolidation of School Feeding Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean”. The objective was to promote the exchange of experiences and good practices that support the construction of knowledge towards the strengthening of public policy on school feeding in the region.
The project is part of the actions of the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme, and it is developed jointly by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ABC/MRE, by its Portuguese acronym), the National Fund for Educational Development of the Ministry of Education (FNDE/MEC by its Portuguese acronym) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN).
For the director of FNDE, Garigham Amarante, the “technical visits contribute to offering new perspectives on Brazil’s national school feeding program, create channels for the exchange of experiences, open new perspectives for action and mutual understanding, strengthening the programs of other countries”.
Rafael Zavala, FAO Representative in Brazil, said that school feeding is the best lesson in terms of public policies from Brazil to the world. “It is the program that changes lives the most.” Mr. Zavala affirmed that if there were a World Cup, like the soccer World Cup, for public policies “the trophy would be for school feeding”.
Representing the governments at the opening, Hugo Tintel, from the Ministry of Education of Paraguay, talked about the meaning of technical cooperation for a country. “Today in Paraguay we have a school feeding policy and our program is going to be 10 years old. We were able to count a lot on the intense and significant support of the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation“, he commented. “I dare to say that Paraguay is the reflection of a job well done in relation to this cooperation and this trajectory of more than 60 years of the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme”.
A week of lectures, visits to schools, and farmers
Among the moments of presentations of experiences and dialogue, the international delegation learned about the actions of the National School Feeding Program (PNAE by its Spanish acronym) of Brazil, its progress over more than six decades; innovations, such as regulatory frameworks for the adequacy of school feeding during the pandemic of COVID-19; concepts, guidelines, and legal frameworks, such as the law that includes purchases from family farming; challenges, among others.
During the visit to five schools in Brasília, the government representatives had the opportunity to talk with students, teachers, principals, nutritionists, cooks, and federal and local government technicians who implement the PNAE. In Brazil, the PNAE structure is organized to serve almost 41 million students daily, in 150 thousand public schools. It is implemented in a collaborative system among the 27 Brazilian states and 5,570 municipalities.
They also visited kitchens, warehouses and were present during the school feeding of students, including teaching in night schools for young people and adults. “For many, this is the only meal of the day. It is very important because you cannot learn when you are hungry. We love the cooks who prepare the meals with so much love,” said student Thiago Costa, from the Urso Branco School, 18 years old.
“One of the things that I consider most relevant and important is the dedication of the Brazilian government to adopt an SFP in all schools. The infrastructure that has been dedicated to placing the kitchens, the warehouses, the storage process, and the hiring of personnel dedicated to the kitchen itself, so that the food is not only a plate of food itself but has all the hygienic and safety requirements, to ensure the effectiveness of the process, “said Byron Castillo, deputy director of Strengthening of the Educational Community, of the departmental directorate of education of Guatemala East.
“I am very surprised and satisfied to see how all the children and young people enjoy this moment, which is an essential part of their formation and growth”.
With the support of the Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Company of the Federal District (Emater-DF, by its Portuguese acronym), visits were made to local production areas where small rural producers participate in institutional purchasing programs, including school meals.
The visiting group had the opportunity to talk with the farming families, who provide organic fruits, vegetables, and legumes for school meals in the capital city. In Brazil, the school feeding program involves about 40 thousand farming families throughout the country, organized by associations or cooperatives.
“This support to farmers from different programs, I would call it a blessing. I paid with tears for this experience of seeing how this changed their lives. It is very important to support the farmers to have more opportunities for their children and get out of poverty,” said participant Guido Villega, from the district of Huancayo, Peru.
With this same group of countries, on September the 1st, the hybrid event “Regional Dialogue of the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES, by its Spanish acronym) with Latin America and the Caribbean – 2022” was held, with in-person participation of the members of the delegation and the attendance of more than 280 people from the countries of the region, through the Zoom platform.
In virtual participation, Solange Fernandes , coordinator of the PNAE from the FNDE, highlighted the importance of the network to support countries in overcoming challenges and socializing knowledge to strengthen institutions and their policies. “This network will strengthen us as countries,” she said. Representing CARICOM, Shaun Baugh said that “Brazil’s school feeding program is a successful model that should be disseminated and replicated”.
At the end of the mission, a meeting was held with the RAES focal points to discuss the next steps for the continuity of the network’s actions, based on the identification of common challenges and strengths. The topics of capacity building in areas such as governance, food and nutrition education (FNE), financing, public procurement for family farming, regulatory frameworks, and intersectoral coordination, among others, were highlighted.
“According to what the participants raised, the RAES should continue as the permanent dialogue channel of the countries in favor of guaranteeing all Latin and Caribbean students the human right to adequate food, with the offer of healthy, fresh and nutritious food in every school day and with the implementation of food and nutrition education actions in schools,” said Najla Veloso, coordinator of the project Consolidation of School Feeding Programmes in LAC.
Content produced by the project Consolidation of School Feeding Programmes in LAC, in the framework of the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme
Photos: Edgar Marra/Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme