Pandemic’s impact on school meals persists in Latin America and the Caribbean

Brasilia, Aug 29 (EFE).- School feeding programs are critical in encouraging children to attend school. Still, a report presented Tuesday in Brasilia by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Food Program (WFP) found that school meals in Latin America and the Caribbean are still suffering after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Teachers know what hunger looks like in the classroom: fidgeting, waning attention spans, and tempers getting shorter. Teaching and learning become much more challenging when children are hungry or malnourished,” said Mercedes Mateo, IDB Chief of Education.

The report, “State of School Feeding in Latin America and the Caribbean 2022,” was presented at the opening of a high-level event on human capital development in Latin America and the Caribbean, where delegates from all countries in the region and representatives of international organizations met.

It argues that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education of 165 million students in Latin America and the Caribbean. While many countries successfully adapted school feeding programs, “longtail effects” of the pandemic, such as prolonged school closures, “damaged multiple aspects of children’s well-being.”


The pandemic “caused an educational crisis” that continues “against a backdrop of compounding crises in the region.”

Rising food prices are leading to food insecurity and declining nutritional indicators. Climate change is bringing “intensified droughts and wildfires and more frequent and violent hurricanes,” obesity and related comorbidities are increasing, and “complicated and large-scale migratory movements.”

These longstanding structural challenges “threaten children’s well-being, access to school, and ability to thrive.”

The report found that “up to 12 million” children and adolescents in the region “are already out of school.”

While many countries managed to maintain their school feeding programs during the pandemic, contributing “to reducing social and economic inequality gaps, promoting equitable access to quality education and healthy diets.”

School feeding programs in the region face “significant challenges” due to problems of “management, financing, and coordination.


According to the report, there were disparities between “countries with more and fewer resources” and within countries “regarding the programs’ reach, relevance, and quality.”

The report found that four countries had a school feeding coverage of less than 50% of children enrolled. At the same time, some programs offered a “less nutritious food basket.” EFE


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