Improving World Nutrition

The first United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) aim to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty.

nutrition-food-brazilBrazil has recently made impressive improvements in reducing food and nutritional insecurity especially among children under five years old. By 2009, the percentage of children wasting fell to 1.8% of the total population against 19.6% reported in the past 10 years. The achievements can be explained as a combination of joint efforts in reducing extreme poverty, expanding the income and investments in school feeding and public health after the launching of the Zero Hunger Strategy in 2003.

The success of Brazil in fighting food and nutritional insecurity has generated a global interest in the Brazilian model. Specifically, this interest includes the “know-how” of establishing legal, institutional and financial mechanisms to support successful strategies in the fight against hunger by creating a multisectorial approach to tackle hunger.

The experience, as well as the outstanding results of the Brazilian School Feeding Program as a component of the Zero Hunger strategy, contributes to the understanding on how to develop multi-sector and sustainable school feeding models linked to social protection policies and nutritional issues.

The right to food was included in the Brazilian Constitution and assures food and nutritional security as a State policy. In this sense, the National School Feeding Program (PNAE) is central in decreasing child malnourishment as it reaches children under one year old and the expenditure with meals for pupils until four years is almost three times higher than with older students.

PNAE was one of the first programs in the world to address that concern. Equally pioneering for the PNAE was the law to include 30% of the food used for the school meals to be purchased from small holder farmers, which linked agriculture and food security in an institutional perspective and shows the multi-sector character of the Brazilian model.

Moreover, all the school meals are designed by a nutritionist and students learn from the beginning to have a healthy relation with what they eat. This way, not only under nutrition is approached but also the obesity problem is considered as a public health matter and has become an important distress within the School Feeding Program.

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In this context, the Centre of Excellence against hunger was launched in the end of 2011 as a partnership between the Brazilian government and the United Nations World Food Program. The Centre of Excellence aims to share the Brazilian experience and to support developing countries in establishing food as a human right, including nutrition as a food security matter and to develop a sustainable National School Feeding Program supporting countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

By providing policy advice and technical assistance, the Centre of Excellence works as a global knowledge platform that has brought southern nations together and helping them to develop their own initiatives in fighting hunger and malnutrition. Since its creation more than 20 countries received Centre’s support in technical cooperation.

Daniel Balaban is an Economist and has a MBA in Finance and Masters in International Relations. Since August 2011, he is the Director and Representative of the World Food Program Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brazil. He acted over ten years in the areas of finance and planning in business consulting firms and foundations of welfare facilities. In 1994 he became Finance Analyst of Brazil’s Ministry of Finance, having served as Economic Adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury and National Coordinator for Economic Studies of the Secretariat of National Treasury. In 2003 he served as Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Economic and Social Development of Brazil’s Presidency of the Republic. From March 2006 to August 2011, he was President of the Brazilian National Education Development Fund, responsible for the National School Feeding Program which feeds more than 47 million students around the Country. Mr. Balaban has been instrumental in supporting south-south cooperation and partnership in collaboration with the World Food Program and the Food and Agricultural Organization to bring support to national governments, including several countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.