o Supporting the revision of national legislation on school food and nutrition
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Development Law Service (
United Nations / Multilateral body
The right to food for school children is intrinsic to the human right to have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Multi-component school feeding programs established through legislation with sufficient budget allocations and other resources are widely recognized as key instruments to achieve children’s right to adequate food, education and health. They can contribute to preventing hunger and malnutrition, address micronutrient deficiencies and encourage healthy eating habits. Nutritious food and nutritional school education can also influence families. School feeding programmes can increase school enrolment and attendance, as well as reduce dropout rate, particularly for girls.
Adopting legislation on school food and nutrition is an optimum way to guarantee the right to adequate food to schoolchildren, ensuring long-term commitment regardless of political change. Legislation can ensure institutional mechanisms for implementation, coordination and accountability. School feeding programs have a social protection role as they guarantee access to adequate food for the most vulnerable children while in school. School feeding can also have a positive impact on school attendance. Besides, increased schooling among adolescent girls can contribute to prevent early marriage and pregnancy. Combined with healthy meals and nutrition education, it can lead to improved nutritional outcomes for themselves and their future children. This has been FAO’s approach in Guatemala and Ecuador.
Legislation to ensure school feeding and nutrition jointly with other synergistic policies can help governments meet their human rights obligations and contribute towards countries’ achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender equality) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Promoting healthy school food environments and safe and nutritious school meals for all children but has a direct impact in the development of a country and is essential to achieve the SDGs.
FAO uses a school food and nutrition (SFN) approach to support countries in looking holistically at their school policies and programmes and finding strategic synergies to enhance impact on diets, child nutrition, local food systems and sustainable development. This approach is rooted in creating an enabling policy, legal and institutional environment for holistic, multisectoral and synergistic school programmes and policies that deal with food and nutrition. The success of holistic approaches to food and nutrition in schools depends, to some extent, on adequate legal and institutional frameworks and public policies. A human rights approach should be used. This should set the foundations for countries’ compliance with their international human rights obligations and raise greater public awareness of children’s rights. Legislation should establish clear institutional responsibilities and inclusive participation and coordination mechanisms among the different stakeholders involved, as well as encourage adequate budget allocations and a framework for monitoring and enforcement. The Law on School Feeding in Guatemala (Decree Nº 16-2017) was promoted by the Parliamentary Front against Hunger of Guatemala. The alliance between the Parliamentary Fronts and FAO was key for the enactment of the law, after national discussions. FAO provided technical assistance to enhance the legislative proposals and establish dialogue between national stakeholders, advocating for the importance of such legal tools to ensure the right to food of schoolchildren.
In Guatemala, where still 49.8% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, the school feeding and nutrition programme covers 2.5 million children from pre-primary and primary schools. Schoolchildren receive a plate of food with the nutritional requirements necessary for their age. According to the School Feeding Law, it is a “supplement to the food they receive at home and that contributes to satisfying their daily diet”. However, for many families in social vulnerability, this represents the opportunity for children to eat at least once a day. Two provisions of the Law deserve a special reference: Article 33 on Budgetary Allocation and Article 34 on the Financial Regime. These provisions directly endowed the law with resources to be implemented effectively.
The main key element for the enactment of the law was that the Parliamentary Front against Hunger of Guatemala promoted it as an essential instrument to tackle malnutrition in children. Articles 33 and 34 with specific budgetary allocations and financial regime provisions were essential for the implementation of the law. Besides, the participation and involvement of parents in the functioning of the programme proved to be indispensable in crisis situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the school feeding and nutrition programmes to be sustainable, provision must be made to guarantee transparent and adequate financing and the financing arrangements necessary for implementation. Likewise, provisions including the corresponding ministry in the annual budget review and reaffirming the obligation to guarantee every child’s right to adequate food at school even at times of cutbacks, are essential. This element, reflected in Articles 33 and 34 of the Law explain, at least, part of its success. Another replicable element of this Law is the reference in Article 15 to local purchases, which establishes an explicit linkage between small producers and family farmers to provide food for the school feeding programme. This kind of provisions strengthen the connection between nutrition, sustainable agriculture and local economic development.
Several measures were taken by the Ministry of Education from Guatemala to ensure that the distribution of school meals kept functioning. The Ministry issued an instruction on “Delivery of non-perishable food through the parent organizations under the Ministerial Agreement Nº 825-2020, that establishes it as an unforeseen event”. Therefore, parents’ organizations are receiving the funds provided by the Ministry of Education and are responsible for delivering the school meals for 2.5 million children.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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