Virtual Exchange • Publications
The International Day of Education, celebrated on 24 January, was created by the United Nations General Assembly to highlight the role of education for peace and development. In a message recorded especially for the date, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the impacts of the pandemic for students around the world. “Today, school closures continue to affect the lives of more than 31 million students, exacerbating a global learning crisis,” he said. Education is a prominent public good and an essential facilitator for the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he added.
In addition to being a space for cognitive and psychosocial development, the school is also the place where children in the most vulnerable communities around the world have their only balanced meal of the day, which represents an important strategy to combat hunger and malnutrition. Over the 10 years of its operations, the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil has worked with partner countries to create and strengthen accessible school feeding programmes that are adapted to local specificities while offering locally sourced food.
Adequate health and nutrition are essential for students to learn and perform better overall. In addition, school feeding serves as an incentive for school attendance, while also to removing from families the financial burden of providing nutritious and fresh food daily, and supporting those families who are unable to provide those meals. By benefiting children and their families, the food served at school helps create what is called human capital, which combines health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits of a population.
When school feeding is linked to local agriculture, it also benefits the economy. Taking all of this into consideration, it is possible to say that an investment of US$ 1 in school feeding can generate up to US$ 9 in return. In a recent study conducted by the Centre of Excellence, it is possible to see, in practice, the advantages of investment in school feeding programmes in São Tomé and Príncipe. The publication is available here.
During the pandemic and the closure of schools, several countries had to adapt their school feeding programmes to ensure the distribution of food to these populations. Among the solutions adopted by local governments are the review of the benefits allocated per child, the review of the distribution modality and direct cash transfers.
In Brazil, the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE), which serves more than 40 million students with daily nutritious meals, was adapted so that food would continue to reach the families of students who remained at home with the closing of schools. To learn more about the adaptations made to the programme, please download this publication.
On December 22nd, the WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger Brazil participated in the final presentation of capstone projects prepared by students in the Professional Master’s Degree in International Policy Analysis and Management, a graduate programme at the Institute of International Relations (IRI) at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). The students, with the support of the Centre of Excellence, have analysed the different pandemic adaptation strategies developed by four countries in the global South to adapt the implementation and guarantee continuity to their school feeding programmes in the context of school closures.
The students focused on the distinct response strategies, highlighting challenges and learnings in policy adaptation in an emergency manner and in a context of great uncertainty. The project aimed to review the potential impact of the pandemic on the school feeding programmes in a multidimensional way, focusing on the thematic axes of nutrition, school performance and local agriculture.
This initial project is part of a wider partnership established between the WFP Centre of Excellence and the PUC Rio’s Institute of International Relations. Over the coming years, the Centre of Excellence and IRI will work together to produce research and knowledge relevant to the real challenges and opportunities experienced by countries assisted by the Centre. The goal is to engage students and promote the production of graduate research on areas such as the impact on school feeding programmes, food and nutrition security of vulnerable populations, food systems and rural development.
With the technical and institutional support of WFP, the graduate students will have the opportunity to develop professional and academic work that can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2, aimed at zero hunger and the promotion of sustainable agriculture; and SDG 17, which focuses on strengthening means of implementation and the revitalization of global partnerships for sustainable development by 2030. The results of this collaboration should provide important subsidies for WFP Centre of Excellence’s assistance to partner countries.
About WFP – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, saving lives in emergencies and contributing to peace, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and climate change impacts through food assistance and food and nutrition security projects. The Centre of Excellence Against Hunger is the result of a partnership between the WFP and the Brazilian government. The mission of the Centre of Excellence is to support developing countries in creating and implementing sustainable solutions against hunger, inspired by successful experiences developed in Brazil. The WFP Centre of Excellence also acts as a global hub for policy dialogue and knowledge about food systems.
About IRI – The Institute of International Relations (IRI) at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) is a centre of excellence in the area of International Relations in Brazil. During its more than 30 years of existence, the Institute has been a pioneer in research on Brazil’s foreign policy, in Latin America’s political and economic changes, and transformations in the world order. Its Graduate Programme trains researchers who work in several universities in the country and abroad, and its Undergraduate Program has been ranked among the five best in the country and the best in Rio de Janeiro. The Institute is internationally recognized as a reference in teaching and research within the discipline of International Relations and maintains a diversified network of partnerships with important universities abroad. PUC-Rio is one of the best universities in the country, with 24 departments and 11 complementary units dedicated to research, teaching, and extension.
School Feeding in traditional communities: The quilombola PNAE
Brazil has one of the largest, most well-established school feeding programmes in the world, serving more than 40 million students daily in all regions of the country. Implementing this programme in a country of continental dimensions and rich ethnic and cultural variety requires constant innovation and attention to the needs of each community. This policy brief presents the challenges and solutions the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) found to meet the needs and context of traditional quilombola communities.
In 2020, the National Assembly of Togo unanimously approved the National School Feeding Law. The law is the result of a long process of advocacy, analysis of the experiences of other countries and intense cooperation, with the participation of the WFP. Since the approval, the national government of Togo has been implementing the School Feeding programme in line with the law and is on track to turn the programme into an important state policy.
The joint efforts of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil and the WFP country office to support the government of Togo in strengthening national school feeding capacities has included, over the years, establishing legal and regulatory foundations, regular communication and sharing of experiences through face-to-face missions, remote activities and facilitation of Togo’s participation in events for exchanges with countries in the global south, such as the Global Forum on Child Nutrition. In 2014, a delegation from Togo came to Brazil for a study visit organized by the Centre of Excellence and the WFP country office to learn about the Brazilian experience in school meals linked to local agriculture.
As a result of this visit, in 2015 the Centre of Excellence, with the support of the Brazilian government, carried out a series of missions to the country to support the development of the National School Feeding Policy. In 2016, the government of Togo held the first national forum on the topic, which was attended by 300 people, including national actors in the field of school feeding and representatives from Brazil, Benin, Burundi, Côte D’Ivoire, Niger and Senegal. The forum discussed the implementation of Togo’s National School Feeding Policy in a series of round tables, working groups and field visits and recommended the adoption of a school feeding law.
Find out more in the book “A Decade of Cooperation: 10 years of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil”.
To download the publication “Country Experiences: Togo”, click here.
School-based programmes operated by the WFP and the government of Kenya act as tools to strengthen the country’s capacity and ensure access to safe and nutritious food for school-aged children. These programmes are important means of increasing resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress, especially for smallholder farmers. School feeding linked to local agriculture is the main school programme in Kenya and has been in operation since 1980. Today, WFP, together with the Kenyan Ministry of Education, provides nutritious meals to 1.5 million children.
Since 2009, school meal interventions have moved from WFP to a school feeding modality linked to local government-led agriculture, which ensures that food is purchased from local farmers, promoting local economic development. It was also in 2009 that Kenya’s cooperation with the government of Brazil began, when the WFP country office started to participate in cooperation actions with officials from the Brazilian Ministry of Education. Between 2011 and 2017, Kenya received direct support from the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil to strengthen its school feeding programme and develop the National School Feeding and Nutrition Strategy.
In 2013, the Kenyan government began preparing for the sustainable expansion of its school feeding programme linked to local agriculture, which took place between 2014 and 2018. This transition was aimed at building a programme in Kenya that was fully managed by the national government, with integrated actions in education and nutrition, and a programme that purchased from local smallholder farmers, stimulating local economic development.
In 2015, the Centre of Excellence, WFP and the Brazilian government organized a technical mission to Kenya to support the government of that country in building the National Strategy for School Feeding and Nutrition. In 2016, a study visit aimed to understand how Brazil managed to integrate its social policies and programmes in the areas of food security, nutrition, income generation, school meals and family farming. After the mission, the Centre of Excellence supported the WFP and the Kenyan government in strategy reviews.
In 2018, the Kenyan government formally approved and launched the National Strategy for School Feeding and Nutrition. In 2019, the process of transferring accountability from the WFP school feeding programme to the government of Kenya was finalized. However, WFP continues to act as a partner to the Government of Kenya, collaborating with technical support where necessary. To record the result of the technical support work, the Centre of Excellence developed, in partnership with the WFP and the Government of Kenya, “Country Experiences: Kenya”, published in the first half of 2021. The publication details the country’s journey in the development of its national school feeding programme and the role of the Centre of Excellence and the Brazilian government in this process.
Find out more in the book “A Decade of Cooperation: 10 years of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil”.
Participation in technical seminars, study visits and joint work on nutrition projects marked the cooperation work carried out between the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil and Peru over the past few years. The partnership began in 2015, with the participation in the VII School Feeding Seminar for Latin America and the Caribbean, which brought together more than 200 participants, including government representatives, regional and international experts in school feeding and public and private organizations from 17 countries in the region .
The following year, Peru was part of a group of 10 other countries that came to Brazil, with support from the Centre of Excellence and the Brazilian government, for the School Feeding and Nutrition Day. Organized by the Centre of Excellence, the meeting presented important aspects of the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE), mainly to countries that had not yet come to Brazil on a study visit. As part of the agenda, the Peruvian delegation also participated in a seminar on social policies and field visits to learn about best practices in food and nutrition security in Brazil.
The collaboration between the Centre of Excellence, the WFP and the government of Peru, which began with the promotion of school feeding, now also includes nutrition actions within the scope of the Nurture the Future Project, launched in 2020. One of the first activities was a seminar with representatives from the health sectors of the three cooperation countries – Brazil, Colombia and Peru – aimed to present and discuss food and nutrition policies. In 2021, a second seminar launched the project’s first product, “Policy Brief #1: Childhood Obesity – prevention and care strategies (at the local level)” and brought together the Ministry of Health and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency in an online event, which included specialists from various areas, including local public managers, who make up one of the publication’s target audiences.
Also in 2021, the Virtual Tour “Linking family farming to public procurement in Peru and Brazil” promoted a South-South Cooperation space between the Peruvian and Brazilian governments to share knowledge, good practices and lessons learned in the development of food programs local school. The event marked the final phase of a series of virtual exchanges within the project “Promoting the Participation of Small and Medium-Sized Farmers in Public Procurement to Improve School Nutrition in Peru”.
Find out more in the book “A Decade of Cooperation: 10 years of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil”.
The work with Mozambique has taken place at various moments over the 10 years of operations of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil, as an addition to the work carried out by the WFP. Since 1977, WFP has supported school feeding in Mozambique to promote school attendance in a context of food insecurity. In 2002, support was expanded to 159 primary schools. During this period, school meals were financed and implemented by the WFP. The transition to the administration and financing of school meals by the government of Mozambique took place between 2007 and 2009, followed by the signing of the trilateral agreement Brazil-Mozambique-WFP.
In 2011, the Centre of Excellence started supporting the country (within the trilateral agreement) by sending a consultant to Mozambique, between November 2011 and May 2012. As a result of this contribution, a pilot school feeding project was launched. A second phase of the consultancy work took place between September and December 2012 with a new format that integrated a proposal for local purchases by the government to be included in the school menu.
In 2013, the Council of Ministers of Mozambique unanimously approved the National School Feeding Programme (PRONAE) proposal, which was prepared by the Ministry of Education and supported by the Centre of Excellence and the WFP. The proposal was announced by the Mozambican government in 2014 and part of the PRONAE funds were secured through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Education of Mozambique, the Centre of Excellence and the Brazilian government, through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and the National Fund for Education Development.
In 2018, a new phase of the partnership between Brazil, Mozambique and the WFP began with the aim of strengthening institutional and managerial mechanisms through a new initiative, the Beyond Cotton Project. In order to ensure sustainable production and contribute to food and nutrition security, the new project promoted technical meetings and held a workshop with 30 representatives from 14 institutions directly involved in agriculture and food and nutrition security in the country, with the aim of integrating the activities from the project to national food and nutrition security policies.
Throughout 2019, the Centre of Excellence advanced with its support to Mozambique both in the development and evaluation of PRONAE, as well as in the advancement of the Beyond Cotton Project in the country. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, projects were able to launch field activities, thanks to the coordination effort carried out remotely from the Centre of Excellence in Brazil, with the support from partners.
Daniel Balaban, Director of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil, was one of the speakers at a school feeding conference organized by the Romanian parliament, which is discussing a new law that seeks to expand the country’s national school feeding programme to reach 70% of schools by 2024. The Centre of Excellence was invited to share its 10-year experience in assisting countries across the globe in creating and strengthening school feeding programmes through South-South Cooperation in partnership with the Brazilian government. The event, held on Thursday 11 November, brought together WFP specialists, ambassadors from Finland and India, in addition to representatives from the World Bank.
In his presentation, Daniel Balaban remembered when he was president of the National Fund for Education Development and shared some details about the Brazilian School Feeding Programme and how it offers free meals to over 40 million students every day, while also covering remote areas of the country, including indigenous and quilombola communities. He also detailed how the programme is funded and run. “Despite the cost of nearly USD 1 billion needed to run the programme, this represents less than 0.5% of Brazil’s tax collection. There are a number of studies around the world that show that the return for investing in school meals may reach nine times its investment, with an average of 5.5 return for each dollar invested in the programme”, he said.
He also explained more about the work carried out by the Centre of Excellence in assisting countries in evaluation and policy design work, in addition to study visits, in which countries can now take part virtually. He also highlighted the importance of the role of the community and civil society in monitoring the programme.
Peter Rodrigues, Senior Partnerships Officer at WFP, highlighted the importance of school meals programmes as safety net that protects children and families. He also reminded the audience that the theme was discussed during the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which announced the Global School Meals Coalition, officially launched in a global online event this week. He also said that school meals are also an important tool during a time of crisis, such as the one brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event also had speeches about school feeding programmes in India and Finland, in addition to a presentation from the World Bank. A recording of the event is available here. To learn more about the “Virtual Study Visit: Brazil” and request a virtual visit, please click here.
With the support from the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil, the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) was featured in the online ceremony that marked the launch of the Global School Meals Coalition, on Tuesday 16 November. Supported by the WFP, the new Coalition aims to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a healthy, nutritious meal in school by 2030, by supporting member countries to deliver effective, national school meals programmes. Over 60 countries and 55 other partners from universities, think tanks, NGOs, and UN agencies have signed up to the Coalition, whose work will run until 2030.
Karine Santos, Coordinator of the Brazilian School Feeding Programme (PNAE), spoke about some of the characteristics that make the Brazilian programme recognized worldwide. “The success of the school feeding policy in Brazil is due to the fact that it is based on the human right to adequate and healthy food and also to universal access”, she said, while mentioning the purchase of food from local smallholder farmers and the need for menus to be created by nutritionists. Adriana Rossato Souza, a nutritionist working in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, also shared her experience. “Providing meals at school with safe, varied foods that respect food culture and that are produced at the local level, allied with food and nutrition education conducted by nutritionist professionals, help students recreate their eating habits and directly and positively influence their family, friends, and relatives”, she said.
The event also featured President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in his role as Chairperson of the African Union, Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Ville Skinnari, and David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme. “In just a few months, 60 governments and 50 organizations have come together from around the world to support the Coalition’s ambitious plan to ensure that every single child can access healthy school meals by 2030. The Covid pandemic smashed a decade of progress made in expanding school meals to the world’s most vulnerable children. This is our chance to get back on track”, David Beasley said.
The School Meals Coalition has been launched at a moment of great peril for many of the world’s children, so its mission will be to support partner countries to scale up school meals programmes, while overcoming gaps and bottlenecks. A number of School Meals Coalition initiatives have already been launched this year, which aim to support governments to widen and improve their school meals programmes. Carmen Burbano, Director of the World Food Programme’s School Feeding Division, said: “It is very exciting to see this initiative talking off this year. These countries believe that these programmes are fundamental for us to overcome the Covid-19 crisis. But the diversity of the partners is only the tip of the iceberg to what is needed to bring about this change”.
Over the past 10 years, the WFP Centre of Excellence in Brazil has supported countries to create and strengthen home-grown school feeding programmes through South-South Cooperation, in partnership with the government of Brazil. You can learn more about what has been done so far here.
A recording of the event can be found here.
The WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil welcomed back the Lesotho delegation for the closing workshop of the “Virtual Study Visit: Brazil” on October 21st. The virtual visit is a joint initiative with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and the National Fund for Education Development (FNDE) and presents the fundamental pillars of the Brazilian experience with food and nutritional security to a global audience. The methodology consists of a series of videos that simulate an immersion into the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE). They are complemented by online workshops, where participants can exchange questions, learnings and discuss possible joint next steps.
Cecilia Malaguti, ABC’s Coordinator-General of South-South and Triangular Cooperation with International Organizations, highlighted the growing relevance of school meals as a central tool for social protection in the context of a global sanitary and economic crisis. “The exchanges we are having today exemplify the main goals and purpose of our South-South Cooperation strategy. School feeding has always been a priority and fundamental theme for the Brazilian international cooperation initiatives. We see it as a key solution to mitigate the worldwide rising levels of poverty and hunger”, said Cecilia.
The closing workshop brought together 45 participants from the Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training and the local WFP office, as well as representatives from FNDE, ABC, the Brazilian Embassy in Pretoria and the WFP Centre of Excellence. The meeting was an interactive question and answer session, where participants exchanged lessons learned and good practices. Some of the common challenges discussed included establishing robust legal frameworks, defining funding strategies, promoting community participation, and investing in capacity development and multisectoral collaboration for policy implementation.
Bruno Costa e Silva, representing FNDE, emphasized the value of the session for both sides of the exchange. “These workshops are a very important learning experience for us too. Being introduced to other models, such as the one in Lesotho, helps us to keep improving the design and implementation of our school feeding programme here in Brazil too”, said Bruno.
In his final remarks, Dhira Khama, Principal Secretary of Basic Education in Lesotho, recalled that this is an important and initial step in the collaboration between the governments of Lesotho, Brazil and WFP. “We learned a lot from the videos and the virtual meetings, and we have noted many things that we would like to incorporate into our own programme. We want to continue to engage and get all the support we can to make sure that school feeding is a success in our country”, concluded Dhira Khama.
The virtual visit is a central tool within the WFP Centre of Excellence’s remote support methodology, an initiative that seeks to provide technical assistance in a flexible and cost-effective way. To learn more about the “Virtual Study Visit: Brazil” and request a virtual visit, please click here.