School meal programmes benefit children, support local farms in Latin America – UN study

FAO study profiles benefits of school feeding programmes linked to family farms. Credit: FAO

23 August 2013 – School feeding programmes in Latin America are having a positive impact on children’s well-being and are fostering local development when food is sourced from family farmers, a United Nations study found.

The study, A Panorama of School Feeding and the Possibilities for Direct Purchases from Family Farming - Case Studies in Eight Countries, indicates that these programmes promote school attendance and bolster the learning process. Additionally, the eight countries who took part in the study showed interest in sourcing food from family farmers to advance local development.

“This is a triple-win approach: it secures quality food for students of public schools, promotes consumption of fresh and healthy food, and opens new markets and the possibility of higher incomes for family farmers while boosting local development,” said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva.

The various programmes examined by the study include 18 million students of different ages and educational levels, with a combined budget of approximately $940 million, representing an investment of $25 per student each year.

The study found that Governments’ commitment for school meal programmes has grown, but notes that appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks are required to make it easier for small local producers to supply food to government networks.

“The study shows that tackling the challenges of school feeding programs requires the involvement of various actors, including Governments, parliamentarians, international organizations, private sector, the educational community and civil society,” said Najla Veloso, coordinator of FAO’s regional work in this area.

The study was undertaken in Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru, and was supported by the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme, which is engaged in a series of activities aimed at helping countries achieve various Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Given the advances shown by the study on school feeding programmes, FAO and the Government of Brazil are stressing the need to translate the political commitment shown by countries into concrete school feeding policies and institutions, to guarantee the quality and nutritional value of food in schools.

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