Photo: WFP/Ana Cláudia Costa
The field trip started on Monday, 24 October, in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul state, in the South of Brazil. In the morning, the delegates met the state’s secretary of Health, Francisco Paes, who highlighted how important it is for governments to strengthen their interventions to promote good nutrition. "We hope this field trip can contribute to the efforts of your countries to improve the nutritional status of your people," said Paes.
Linking School Feeding and Nutrition
The delegations visited two schools to see firsthand the Brazilian school feeding programme and talk to nutritionists, school staff and children. Their first stop was at a child education centre that benefits 106 children aged 1-5 in Porto Alegre. Patrícia de Freitas, Humaitá Municipal Child Education Centre’s principal, welcomed the group and presented a series of initiatives developed at the centre to promote child nutrition and food security.
At the centre, children receive four meals a day. To understand how the food is prepared, members of the delegations were invited to enter the school kitchen and then explore a school garden where teachers and children grow fruit and vegetables that are used as school meals ingredients.
“Our goal is to give the kids the opportunity to experience how it feels to grow their own food. The garden cannot supply all the ingredients we need for our school meals. But we use it as a space where children can get familiar with what they eat, a space to learn about the importance of a healthy diet”, explained Patrícia de Freitas.
The school also presented other interesting initiatives, such as its water-recycling project that collects rainwater that is used in the school garden and washrooms, and some nutritional education activities that provide children with healthy eating tips and warn them about the risks of having a diet based on highly processed food.
At the Municipal Elementary School Antônio Giúdice, members of the delegation were introduced to the school’s waste composting project that turns kitchen waste into fertilizer and soil amendment for its school garden. After leaving the school, the delegates went to a popular restaurant subsidized by the local government that provides healthy food at accessible prices for vulnerable populations.
At the end of the day, the delegations visited a human milk bank. They discussed with a local technical team which governmental strategies were put in place to incentive breast-feeding and to provide human milk for children whose mothers cannot breastfeed in Brazil.
During the second day of the field trip, the representatives of Kenya and Liberia visited a cooperative of smallholder farmers located in the municipality of Viamão, in Rio Grande do Sul state. What once was a single propriety, after land reform, became a settlement composed by 375 smallholder farmers.
Nowadays, the cooperative provides rice and vegetables for school meals in the region. All the food produced by the smallholder farmer is organic. “By providing food for the school feeding programme, we give children access to healthy food and support local farmers,” explained Huli Zang, Coperav’s coordinator.
The cooperative also produces bread, cakes and cookies with local ingredients. Around 95 percent of the bakery's production is sold to local schools. Most of the people involved in their baking business are women, which has been helping to increase average family income and living standards in the community.
Focus on Primary Health Care
The field trip ended with a visit to a primary health care centre, in Porto Alegre, where they learned about the impact of Brazil’s Family Health Strategy on infant mortality in the country, and understood how the strategy is linked to other public policies developed by the Brazilian government.
“By combining primary health care to other social protection policies, such as conditional cash transfers, Brazil has reduced its infant mortality and improved malnutrition rates”, stated Vania Frantz, Primary Health Care Coordinator of the city of Porto Alegre.
To meet the conditions related to health and nutrition, children younger than 7 years must be fully vaccinated and must comply with routine health check-ups and growth monitoring. Pregnant and lactating women must attend scheduled prenatal and postnatal visits, and attend educational activities on health and nutrition.
Nutrition Knowledge Exchange
Until the end of the week, the delegations from Liberia and Kenya are following the activities of the XIV Brazilian Nutrition Conference (CONBRAN), participating in plenary sessions and side events, and engaging with nutrition experts from Brazil and other Latin-American countries. The government representatives will exchange impressions on the Brazilian experience, discuss how they could relate those to their local realities and define next steps to consolidate nutrition in their countries.
Top photo: WFP/Ana Cláudia Costa