Today, less than 30% of children between the ages of 2 and 9 eat three meals a day in Brazil. The data are from Penssan Network and were released in June. A situation that has already become a public health problem.
One way to guarantee these meals is through the National School Feeding Program (PNAE), which serves more than 40 million students in about 150,000 schools across the country. The program aims to guarantee at least one meal a day, in order to create eating habits and also reduce school dropout and repetition.
“Now during the holidays, unfortunately, we still don’t have a program that guarantees that these children will receive food, as happened during the pandemic. There, in the pandemic, it was thought of as something that we had no time limit to finish, so much so that we still live this pandemic process, but not the holidays. Vacations are something that we routinely experience during the school year and a way for these children to receive their lunch during this vacation period was never thought of”, says the nutritionist.
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Nutritionist Regina Sebastião observes the impact of this on the Family Health Support Centers (NASF) in the municipality of Camaragibe, in Pernambuco. “It turns out that these children arrive in large numbers with malnutrition, with a lack of vitamins and minerals, with delayed development processes. So, it turns out that they cannot keep up with the rhythm of other children, the pace of learning, and when we receive these children at the health center, we realize that it is because of the lack of food”, she highlights.
The PNAE is the oldest public policy in the country. Created in the 1950s, under the name of Campanha da Merenda Escolar, but, so far, there is no legislation that ensures that children are fed during the school holidays / which usually happen in this month of July. Part of the program’s resources comes from the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), and larger municipalities supplement the budget with local tax collections.
Reginaldo Xavier de Assis, was one of the students who benefited from the program in the 1970s. Today, he is secretary general of the State Council for Sustainable Food and Nutritional Security of Pernambuco (Consea), and highlights that, at least in these cases, it would be possible to guarantee food during the holidays.
“If you take the municipalities that complement, as is the case of Jaboatão, Recife, they have more autonomy, because they may not handle the resource that came from the FNDE, but the part of the treasury they can handle”, highlights Reginaldo, who believes that the public power needs to debate the issue. “Consea and the school administration councils are worth starting to discuss, because if students are going to go on vacation during the pandemic period, how will they be now and in a period of hunger, how will it be?”, he points out.
In addition, another issue has been worrying since the resumption of face-to-face classes, is the outsourcing in the preparation of lunchboxes. Each year the budget is smaller. From 2021 to 2022, it decreased from 4.06 billion reais to 3.96 billion. Thus, even if the law stipulates that 30% of the food in the PNAE comes from family farming, there is a difficulty in the packaging of lunch boxes by outsourced workers, which causes problems in schools. Like the one that took 60 students from the state network in Morro da Conceição, in the north of Recife, to the hospital with suspected food poisoning in April this year.
“Our state has always been a reference in the production of food, in the preparation of food at school and we have some beautiful materials that the Ministry of Health offers that guide how to use it, which guides the preparation of this food, with the guidance work nutrition with these children, and we manage to lose all that from the moment we get this ready-made food”, points out the nutritionist.
According to information from the Pernambuco Department of Education, 919 educational institutions have their own kitchens and 214 have outsourced kitchens that serve more than 500,000 students across the state with an investment of more than 110 million reais of state investment along with 50 million that have been passed on by the federal government in 2022 so far. The secretariat informed that there are 90 nutritionists linked to the program, distributed by the 16 regional managements. This would be the largest group of professionals in the area focused on the program in the country.
Source: BdF Pernambuco
Editing: Vanessa Gonzaga