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Probitas foundation's School Meal Support Project in Catalonia, Murcia and Madrid

Probitas foundation's School Meal Support Project in Catalonia, Murcia and Madrid

In the current context of one in three children under 16 years living below the poverty line, the Probitas Foundation, under the "Child Nutrition Support Program" (RAI), is supporting more than 15,000 children In Catalonia, Murcia and Madrid with a total investment of over 2.5 million euros.

Given the situation of social vulnerability in which many children live in Spain, the Probitas Foundation starts in 2012 its RAI program with the objective of promoting a comprehensive support to the health of minors at risk of social exclusion with nutritional, socio-educational, psychosocial and health resources. One of the most important projects of the RAI Program is the RAI-school meal support, which aims to reduce the risk of child malnutrition through ensuring the feeding of children between 3 and 12 years old enrolled in primary and secondary education, mainly public high complexity schools. In this way, it seeks to provide a healthy meal a day for these minors at risk, to educate the children and their families in healthy habits,  to reduce the rate of school absenteeism and the early school dropout.

Current situation of school meal support in Spain:

As a consequence of the economic crisis, there has been a substantial increase in the demand for aid, both by families already living in a social precarious situation and by the emergence of new situations in families that until now they didn't need any support to feed their children. Although the grants have increased in number of beneficiaries during the last years, they still cannot cover an important number of pupils at risk of poverty in Spain.

The Autonomous Communities of Catalonia, Valencia, Madrid and Rioja, offer  grants that subsidize in whole or in part the school canteen service, and which depend directly on the aid policies promoted by the Administration. In other communities such as Andalusia, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla la Mancha, Extremadura, Galicia, Murcia, Balearic Islands or Navarra, is compulsary for the administrationto give meal grants for students who meet social and personal requirements. Lastly, the Canary Islands do not grant individual scholarships, but rather only provide them to certain educational centers, while the Basque Country does not provide for any specific regulation  on school meal aid, but is recognized in the scholarship scheme for non-university students.

The legislation for school meal aids is frequently a regulation so severe that the families in need of this aid don´t have a real access to receive it using the common criteria based specifically on family income. This situation causes that the only granted families are those with unemployed or inactive members, leaving behind those families that even  having a job, they have serious economic difficulties and they dedicate a high percentage of their income to afford for their children school meal. Another difficulty faced by these families is the scaleestablished for the granting of aid, which only considers the amount of income of the previous year, which means that families with a sudden situation of poverty or with precarious employment situation can´t access to this grants even if they are living in a situation of great need and vulnerability.

Particular situation of the school meal support in Catalonia:

In Catalonia, the change of criteria for the granting of school meal support grants for this course, has brought out 16,000 new applications for scholarships for children who, at the beginning of the last year, were left behind without any aid and that in this course 2016-2017, due to the increase in the poverty threshold approved by Parliament last March, will benefit from them.

According to the data of last October, the Department of Education has resolved a total of 84,049 favorable files of requests for scholarship meal support grants, with a total of 17,898 scholarships (21%) covering 100% of the cost of the school menu. The complete scholarship has increased by 1,300 users over the past year. The rest of the grants awarded cover only 50% of the grant, with a total of 66,151 grants, an increase of 15,000 beneficiaries comparing with last year. Even so, 13,000 applications remain unresolved by county councils, 2,000 more than in 2015. The Department of Education  is aware that new applications may be received throughout the course, so an open budget will be maintained for situations that arise for families in situations of vulnerability (1).

Despite the new selection criteria in granting meal scholarship, and the increase of beneficiaries for this course, the requirements to be beneficiary of this type of aid do not correspond to the real needs of children who are at risk social exclusion;for example, to become eligible, the economic threshold for a family of two adults with two kids cannot be over 20,300 €.

Probitas Foundation RAI-School Meal Support Program
The School Meal Support Program is carried out thought the granting of aid to children who live in high social vulnerability. The maximum financial contribution it's a 50% of the official price of the school canteen (except in some centers of Madrid and Murcia, which Probitas financed the 100% for the characteristics of the scholarships in these communities). In Catalonia the aid is granted to children who already receivedthe Regional Council aid (50%) but can't copay the school meal, for families who have requested the aid but they haven't received it despite their economic difficulties, or for minors who have not received the aid but the schools detects that they need it. The identification of the cases and the work with the families is done in network, in collaboration with the schools and in agreement with the social services of the municipality.
Specifically for this course 2016-2017, a total of 3,023 children from 148 schools in 32 municipalities are going to be benefit for the aid offered by Probitas. The scope of action is concentrated in Catalonia, Murcia and Madrid. In this RAI-School Meal Support Program more than 1.4 million euros will be allocated to cover the needs of children at risk of social exclusion. 
Regarding the profile of the beneficiaries of the school meal support program, it should be noted that 91% of the beneficiary families requested the grant to the Administration and only 7% didn't. The 59% of beneficiaries are under social services follow-up. The beneficiary families come from 52 different nationalities, and 41% are Spanish . The 22% are single-parent families and 50% of the total are large familieswith 5 or more members. The 34% of the parents and the 28% of the mothers are in an active labor situation. 
In addition, the Probitas Foundation also develops projects to meet other nutritional needs, such as the RAI-Breakfasts (a project implemented mainly in Madrid) and the RAI-Secondary School project, with the aim to offer a nutritious meal a day and a space of social protection for students attending high school who are left behind by the official aid due to the intensive school day and the lack of grants for them. 



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