Locally grown school meals can help children, farmers and the climate

By the International Biodiversity Union and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Home-grown school feed (HGSF) supports local farmers while simultaneously preserving local biodiversity and providing culturally appropriate diets. Credits: Ministerio do Desenvolvimento Social, Ubitajara Machado

According to UNICEF, the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically halted a decade of growth in school feeding programs, depriving nearly 370 million schoolchildren of access to one reliable meal a day.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of food systems and how fragile and vulnerable these supply chains are… The only way to get food was from nearby farms and factories,” said Deissy Martinez-Baron, Regional Leader for Climate Action in Latin. At the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, based in Cali, Colombia, USA.

In the article titled “Next Generation School Nutrition: Feeding Our Children While Building Climate Resilience”, UN Journal of NutritionMartinez-Baron and his co-authors argued that home-grown school feed (HGSF) supports local farmers while simultaneously conserving local biodiversity and providing culturally appropriate diets.

The idea could be to replace the free school meals given to children around the world with locally produced food, thus preventing a repeat of what happened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This approach can help shape demand, ensure the market is responsive,” he said, “and the cost of retrofitting these systems will be offset by savings the next time there is an external shock such as a supply chain disruption.”

A clear example of this is Colombia’s new government simultaneously focusing on fixing the country’s school meal schedule, connecting with a clear demand for farmers, and empowering rural women, youth and children, Martinez-Baron said.

“The current government is focusing on family farming, strengthening local food production so that rural population dependent on agriculture can improve their quality of life,” he said, “one of the NDC’s goals for Colombia is to make 1 million farmers more resilient to climate change… We’re reaching.”

Martinez-Baron said women should be involved, as the information they will receive from education programs will play a key role in seeing what is the best way to nurture children.

“This approach needs to be implemented not only by the Ministries of Education or Agriculture, but also by the Ministry of Health so that we can improve children’s nutrition and avoid health problems such as diabetes and food diversity issues,” said Martinez-Baron. We’ve found a way to use what we do at work to benefit our own families and society as a whole.”

garden-based learning

A more climate change responsive approach to school nutrition also provides opportunities to connect with broader aspects of school education, particularly through schoolyard-based learning.

Schoolyards can serve as learning labs for children to better understand the risks and impacts of climate change and show them ways to adapt.

“Children can also learn where their food comes from and how it’s grown, and local governments can tailor their education programs to school meal schedules,” said Martinez-Baron.

In addition to the paper, the Alliance has previously published a book called “Agrobiodiversity, schoolyards and healthy eating,” which collects case studies from around the world. 75 contributors show how schoolyards empower future generations to make food choices that nourish the environment and human health.

The importance of gardens, according to the authors, is that children can learn firsthand about nutrition, agriculture and the environment while developing life skills, knowledge and habits that enable them to make healthy food choices.

More information:
New generation school nutrition: Feeding our children while improving climate resilience, UN Journal of NutritionDOI: 10.4060/cc2805en

Provided by the International Biodiversity Union and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Quotation: Locally grown school meals can help children, farmers and the climate (2022, 29 November), on 29 November 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-11-locally-grown-school-meals-children.html receipt.

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