Brazil Drives New School Meals Pro­gram

Trillions - - In This Issue - By Mario Osava

While the United States goes back­wards on school meal pro­grams and many kids are get­ting in­creas­ingly lower qual­ity school lunches and Trump is try­ing to end all fund­ing for school meals pro­grams abroad, Brazil is show­ing how school meals should be done and it's not just the kids who ben­e­fit.

“I am go­ing back to Panama with many ideas,” said Gilda Mon­tene­gro, a nutri­tion­ist with the Pana­ma­nian Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, af­ter get­ting to know the school feed­ing sys­tem in the city of Vi­to­ria, in cen­tral-eastern Brazil.

She said she was im­pressed with how or­ga­nized it is, the re­sources avail­able to each school and “the role played by nu­tri­tion­ists, in di­rect con­tact with the lunch­rooms, train­ing the cooks in hy­giene and nu­tri­tion, ed­u­cat­ing ev­ery­one while ful­fill­ing a key ed­u­ca­tional func­tion.”

Mon­tene­gro and 22 other vis­i­tors from through­out Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean met with Brazil­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the city of Vi­to­ria, for a tour through schools and cen­ters of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of food that sup­ply the mu­nic­i­pal schools.

The May 16-18 tech­ni­cal visit was or­ga­nized by the Strength­en­ing School Feed­ing Pro­grammes in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean pro­gram im­ple­mented by the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO), as part of a co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment signed with the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment in 2008.

The aim was a first-hand look at the im­ple­men­ta­tion in Vi­to­ria of the Brazil­ian Na­tional School Feed­ing Pro­gramme (PNAE), which has be­come a model repli­cated in a num­ber of coun­tries around the world. The pro­gram serves 43 mil­lion stu­dents in pub­lic preschools and pri­mary schools, which are mu­nic­i­pal, and sec­ondary schools, which are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the states.

The PNAE was first launched in 1955. But the sig­nif­i­cant im­pact it has had in terms of food se­cu­rity, nu­tri­tion and so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion has been seen since a 2009 law es­tab­lished that at least 30 per­cent of the funds re­ceived by each school had to be de­voted to buy­ing food pro­duced by lo­cal fam­ily farms.

“This de­cen­tral­iza­tion fa­vors lo­cal pro­duc­ers and stu­dents gain in bet­ter-qual­ity, fresh food at a lower cost. It pro­motes co­op­er­a­tives and stim­u­lates the lo­cal econ­omy, through small-scale farm­ing, while ben­e­fit­ing the en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing trans­porta­tion time,” said Na­jla Veloso, the re­gional project co­or­di­na­tor for FAO.

Veloso said, “in most of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the sup-

pli­ers are par­ents of the stu­dents,” which help forge closer ties be­tween lo­cal fam­i­lies and the schools and im­proves the qual­ity of the food. All of this con­sti­tutes an im­por­tant help for keep­ing peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas.”

Buy­ing lo­cal could rekin­dle the an­ces­tral agri­cul­tural knowl­edge of the Ngäbe and Buglé peo­ple, who live in western Panama, said Mon­tene­gro. Since 1997, the two eth­nic groups have shared an indige­nous county with a pop­u­la­tion of about 155,000.

“They pro­vide 80 per cent of the food for four schools, but they have not been able to ex­pand, be­cause of the sys­tem of pur­chases by ten­der­ing process, and are al­most lim­ited to pro­duc­ing for their own con­sump­tion,” lamented the Pana­ma­nian nutri­tion­ist. More school pur­chases could “res­cue their tra­di­tional meth­ods of har­vest­ing and pre­serv­ing their typ­i­cal prod­ucts,” she said.

The tech­ni­cal vis­its or­ga­nized by FAO “show suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ences for build­ing knowl­edge in other coun­tries, stim­u­lat­ing in­no­va­tion,” said Veloso.

A new gen­er­a­tion of school feed­ing pro­grams is emerg­ing in the re­gion, com­bin­ing healthy nu­tri­tion, pub­lic pur­chases, fam­ily agri­cul­ture and so­cial in­te­gra­tion.

Vi­to­ria, the cap­i­tal of the Brazil­ian state of Espírito Santo, was cho­sen to re­ceive tech­ni­cians and au­thor­i­ties from 13 coun­tries be­cause of “its strong im­ple­men­ta­tion of the PNAE, its or­ga­nized team, and be­cause it has been a pi­o­neer in this area,” ex­plained Veloso.

Be­fore the new law went into ef­fect in 2008, Vi­to­ria al­ready pri­or­i­tized healthy food pro­duced by small-scale lo­cal farm­ers, said Mar­cia Mor­eira Pinto, co­or­di­na­tor of the School Food and Nu­tri­tion Sec­tor in the Mu­nic­i­pal Sec­re­tariat of Ed­u­ca­tion.

It also al­ways sur­passed the min­i­mum pro­por­tion of pur­chases set for fam­ily agri­cul­ture, she said. In 2016, 34 per cent of the pur­chases were from small-scale farm­ers.

This as­pect has only re­cently been rec­og­nized as key to food se­cu­rity.

“This in­te­gra­tion be­tween ed­u­ca­tion and fam­ily agri­cul­ture ben­e­fits so­ci­ety as a whole, it’s fan­tas­tic. I will try to do it in my town,” said Mario Chang, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion in the de­part­ment of San Mar­cos, Gu­atemala.

“The visit gave me new ideas,” said Rosa Cas­cante, di­rec­tor of Equal­ity Pro­grammes in Costa Rica’s Min­istry of Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion.

The chal­lenge, she said, “will be to adapt Brazil’s lo­cal

pur­chases sys­tem” to her coun­try, where all sup­plies for pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions go through the state Na­tional Pro­duc­tion Coun­cil.

A cam­paign against the waste of food is an in­no­va­tion cre­ated by stu­dents in the Eu­nice Pereira da Sil­veira Mu­nic­i­pal Pri­mary School. In 2015, the losses amounted to 50 ki­los a week. This has been re­duced to just seven or eight ki­los, ac­cord­ing to the school’s au­thor­i­ties.

Stu­dents are served three meals a day at the full-time school, whose 322 stu­dents at­tend from 7 am to 5 pm.

The cam­paign started with a few stu­dents un­der the guid­ance of teach­ers. They mon­i­tored the food wasted in the school kitchen, car­ried out sur­veys on nu­tri­tion, and talked with other stu­dents and the cooks to adapt the meals in or­der to make them tastier and re­duce waste.

Be­sides cut­ting eco­nomic losses and boost­ing a health­ier diet in schools, with more sal­ads and lower fat, the cam­paign is help­ing to im­prove fam­ily habits, said 14-year-old Mar­cos Ro­drigues, one of the cam­paign’s lead­ers. Fam­i­lies adopt our habits, even though we only eat din­ner at home. Now we eat more vegeta­bles at home. I used to be fat, but I lost weight do­ing sports and eat­ing food with less calo­ries, and to­day I have my health un­der control,” the teenager stated. But it is “in the ac­cep­tance of healthy foods where we need more ef­fort, in light of an in­ter­na­tional sce­nario of in­creas­ingly in­dus­tri­al­ized prod­ucts which of­fer great convenience,” said Mor­eira Pinto. Most of the fruits and vegeta­bles served in schools in Vi­to­ria come from Santa Maria de Jetibá, a hilly mu­nic­i­pal­ity 90 km away, pop­u­lated by Pomera­ni­ans, a Euro­pean eth­nic group that used to oc­cupy parts of Ger­many and Poland, who scat­tered at the end of World War II. Pomera­nian im­mi­gra­tion to Brazil oc­curred mainly in the late 19th cen­tury, to Espírito Santo, where they main­tained their ru­ral cus­toms and their lan­guage in a num­ber of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties where there are big com­mu­ni­ties. “Santa Maria is the most Pomera­nian mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Brazil and per­haps in the world,” ac­cord­ing to Mayor Hi­lario Roepke, due to both the num­ber of in­hab­i­tants as well as the preser­va­tion of a cul­ture that has dis­ap­peared or has changed a lot even in their na­tive land. “Of nearly 40,000 in­hab­i­tants, 72 per cent are still ru­ral,” al­low­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to oc­cupy first place in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the state of Espírito Santo and eleventh in Brazil, and the sec­ond lead­ing na­tional pro­ducer of eggs: nine mil­lion a day, said the mayor. The 220-mem­ber Co­op­er­a­tive of Fam­ily Farm­ers of the Ser­rana Re­gion (CAF) is the big­gest sup­plier of food to schools. “The school feed­ing pro­gramme in Vi­to­ria´s metropolitan re­gion is our main mar­ket,” said Maicon Koehler, an agri­cul­tural tech­ni­cian for CAF. Greater Vi­to­ria has a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of nearly two mil­lion. With 102 mu­nic­i­pal schools, the city buys nearly 20 tons of meat and 6.3 tons of beans a month to feed its al­most 500,000 stu­dents, es­ti­mated the co­or­di­na­tor of the sec­tor, who ex­plained that the amounts of fruits and vegeta­bles vary, de­pend­ing on the sea­son.

A farmer picks let­tuce in Santa María de Jetibá, a hilly farm­ing mu­nic­i­pal­ity that is the main sup­plier of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts for school meals in the city of Vi­to­ria, 90 km away along a wind­ing high­way. It is home to the largest Pomera­nian com­mu­nity in Brazil and pos­si­bly in the world. Im­age: Mario Osava/ips

The re­frig­er­a­tor of a pub­lic preschool and daycare cen­tre in the city of Vi­to­ria, full of lo­cally-pro­duced fruit and vegeta­bles. In Brazil, the oblig­a­tory sup­ply of at least 30 per cent of the food for school meals from fam­ily farms has im­proved nu­tri­tion among the stu­dents and has pro­moted lo­cal de­vel­op­ment. Im­age: Mario Osava/ips

Stu­dents eat lunch in the Al­berto Martinelli Mu­nic­i­pal Preschool in the city of Vi­to­ria. A good part of their food comes from lo­cal fam­ily farms, like in the rest of the pub­lic schools in Brazil. Im­age: Mario Osava/ips

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.