Probitas Foundation and the World Food Programme celebrate the "Access to food inside and outside of school: from the distant to the close Day
The aim of the day was to provide an international perspective on the impact of food served at school on children, their families, and communities, and the strategies adopted in different countries to address the need to ensure nutrition for children in the most vulnerable families
- School feeding programs benefit around 368 million children from all over the world.
- Nutritional supplementation is an essential tool for the development of children and communities, functioning as a safety and protection network.
- In Catalonia, about 30% of minors are at risk of exclusion and poverty, 10 percentage points higher than the population as a whole.
The event began with the presentation by Catalonia's Sindic, Rafael Ribó, who laid out the figures on child poverty, malnutrition, cutbacks on food funding and school activities and the lack of benefits in Catalonia. Ribó lamented the growing number of children in Catalonia suffering from food deprivation, rising from 50,000 children in 2013 to 70,000 today. Ribó, in addition, greatly stressed the need to ensure a meal a day throughout the academic year at school lunchrooms for children at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels, in light of the shortcomings in this area. He also underscored the importance of all the stakeholders involved striving towards a common goal to turn the current situation around.
The event continued with remarks by the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) office in Madrid, Antonio Salort-Pons, who explained the WFP's principles, the objectives it pursues, and where and how it works together with other entities. In addition, Salort-Pons explained some of the benefits of school catering services. These include improved child nutrition, food security, a contribution to education and access to schooling. School catering even improve children's personal hygiene. Salort-Pons explained that the WFP had a budget of 5.9 billion dollars (5.27 billion euros) in 2016, with which it served 82.2 million people, including 16.4 million children who received school or take-home meals.
After a break, the event continued with a presentation by Lidia Garcia, an associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and researcher in school-based nutrition. Her speech focused on explaining the intervention models for school nutrition in countries featuring high, intermediate and low levels of wealth, as well as the impact of these models on minors, families and communities in general. García pointed out that in some underdeveloped countries school nutrition networks bolster social protection policies, such as in El Salvador. In her presentation she specifically emphasised the model applied in this country in relation to nutrition for children in schools.
Following the presentations, moderated by the Executive Director of the Probitas Foundation, Marta Segú, the event continued with a roundtable. This forum was moderated by the Head of Knowledge at Barcelona's Childhood and Adolescence Institute, Elena Sintes, and was attended by the Executive of the Probitas Foundation, Marta Segú; the President of the Regional Council of Vallès Occidental, Ignacio Giménez; the Member of the FAPAC's Cafeteria Grants and Child Poverty Commission, Miquel Gené; the Coordinator of the FEDAIA Open Centres Commission and member of the Board of Directors, José Rodríguez; and Red Cross Catalonia Coordinator, Enric Morist.
The main topics addressed in the different presentations were the promotion of healthy development, personal dignity, and promoting habits of nutrition, education and health through a comprehensive system protecting the most vulnerable children. All the speakers agreed that the "intensive school day" schedule at secondary schools is a mistake, and proposed changes made to how subsidies are distributed. Also spotlighted were the protection and socio-educational functions performed by entities such as the Probitas Foundation, which, through its Child Nutrition Reinforcement (RAI, or CNR) programme, guarantees that children in primary and secondary schools are ensured meals throughout the school year.
Finally, it was stressed that the role played by both NGOs and entities is that of complementing that of the Government, but in no case replacing it.
The event, which was organized by the Probitas Foundation and the World Food Programme, concluded with a question and answer session opened up to those attending, at which they were able to discuss the unique aspects of school nutrition programmes in different countries, how they might be adapted to the Catalonian context, and an initial look at the future trends with regards to school cafeteria grants.