Five Things We Can Learn from Brazil's School Meal Program

The Tyee

It spends $1.3 billion a year to feed students and help small farmers. Your move, Canada.

The idea that Canada should catch up with the other G8 countries and create a national school meal program has been on the public radar since at least 2011.

Last year, Food Secure Canada put a price tag on a program -- $1 billion over five years -- and launched a campaign to win support for a national initiative that would provide a healthy meal or snack for every public school student. The program would build on existing programs, and be free or low-cost depending on how much provinces were willing to kick in. Schools and school boards would get a say in what kind of food is served.

But Canada is a huge, diverse country, with about 5.1 million students of varied cultural backgrounds. How could such a program actually work?

Brazil offers some clues. That country spends $1.3 billion per year on its national student nutrition program, known as the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar, or PNAE. The program has been around since 1954, but over the past 15 years it has been transformed thanks to a series of pro-food security reforms -- in particular, legislation passed in 2009 that said at least 30 per cent of food purchased for the program must come from small family farmers.

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