PANAMA CITY, Panama — As one of 13 countries participating in the Brazil /Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) programme on strengthening school feeding programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean, the government of Belize shared with the rest of the region their actions towards promoting healthy school feeding.
During the regional meeting for the consolidation of school feeding programmes, held in Panama from May 14 to 16, 2018, the government of Belize joined 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries, in sharing the outcomes of the Brazil/FAO partnership and their national experiences with implementing school feeding programmes.
Dr Carol Babb, chief education officer from the ministry of education, youth, sports and culture in Belize shared that the school feeding programme in Belize has expanded to almost all schools in the country and that schools have started to develop gardens for producing their own food. She added that whilst they have started much of the work including the training of teachers, the meeting offered an opportunity for the government to evaluate how they could make improvements.
In Belize, a series of actions to strengthen school feeding policy have also taken place. For instance, the district of Toledo conducted activities to establish a sustainable school feeding pilot programme using the sustainable schools methodology.
Babb noted that the government is also currently looking at developing a national school feeding menu and legislating school feeding programmes in the country. She remarked that through the FAO/ Brazil Cooperation Agency, Belize has benefitted from a lot of technical support and on-going training that has helped the programme to advance tremendously.
Strengthening school feeding programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean
The Brazilian experience in the development of the national school feeding programme (PNAE) stirred the attention of the international community and set the ground for the project on strengthening school feeding programmes, which is carried out by FAO with the support of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE).
Currently, the project is being implemented in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Since 2009, FAO and the government of Brazil have developed a programme to strengthen school feeding programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean, which has had promising results. One of the actions developed by the programme is the sustainable schools initiative, which has been designed to establish a reference for the implementation of sustainable school feeding programmes, along with national and local governments.
The initiative is carried out mainly through activities that promote the participation of the education community; the adoption of adequate and healthy school menus; the implementation of pedagogical school gardens; as well as the renovation of kitchens, cafeterias, storage facilities and the direct purchase of local products from family farmers to school feeding.
During the meeting held in Panama this past week, managers of school feeding programs from the 13 countries where the project is being developed exchanged knowledge on good practices and lessons learned from each country.
Experts from FAO, the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE/MEC), representatives of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC/MRE), the World Food Program (WFP), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), among others, also participated in this decade-old technical cooperation initiative.