19.10.2017 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

FAO and UNESCO: It will be impossible to eradicate hunger and malnutrition without food education

The two United Nations agencies agreed to support Latin American and Caribbean countries in their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals linked to the eradication of hunger and access to education.

The Regional Office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) have begun to design a joint strategy to strengthen food and nutrition education and promote its inclusion in public policies in Latin American and Caribbean nations.

According to the most recent FAO report Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean (2017), chronic childhood malnutrition in the region has dropped from 24.5% in 1990 to 11% in 2016. However, 5.9 million children continue to be affected by malnutrition. In addition, excess weight and obesity have become important health problems in Latin American and the Caribbean, where 7% of children under the age of 5 already present as overweight.

By signing the agreement Food and Nutrition Security for Children and Adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean, the FAO Regional Office and OREALC/UNESCO Santiago are joining together to promote the development of initiatives, policies and programs from an intersectorial perspective that contribute to improving education for health and well-being in order to achieve better diet and nutrition for school-age children.

According to the FAO, school meal programs reinforce the continuity of the nutritional cycle and strengthen food culture and social participation in the creation of healthy habits. Health education for good nutrition and healthy lifestyles should accompany these programs throughout the school cycle, UNESCO notes.

Since 2009, FAO has promoted the strengthening of school food programs and sustainable schools in 13 countries in the region with the support of Brazilian funders.

“School age children are a priority for nutrition interventions, and school is the ideal place for teaching basic information about diet, nutrition and health,” noted Adoniram Sanches, Senior Policy Officer for FAO for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“In communities with high levels of food insecurity, school food programs also help to combat malnutrition and keep children in school. They also improve the local economy through access to public markets of institutional supply of foods through family farms,” Sanches added.

Cecilia Barbieri, Director (a.i.) of OREALC/UNESCO Santiago, explained that, “We have a great deal of evidence on the importance of a healthy diet for effective learning. This agreement will allow us to join together to improve access to sufficient, healthy food for young people in the context of the work of implementing the 2030 Education Agenda Roadmap for Latin America and the Caribbean and Sustainable Development Goal 4.”

Through this agreement, the two agencies will promote the strengthening of food education and its integration into policy formulation considering the systematization of food safety and nutrition policies in the region as a foundation along with food-based dietary guidelines, curricular content related to nutrition, physical education and related topics and the experiences of school food programs in the region.

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