The school meals program in Honduras reaches 1.4 million pupils with nutritious food. The program started in 1999 and is the largest social initiative in the country today. Thanks to P4P, Honduran smallholders are now increasingly providing food for the school meals.
WFP is responsible for buying and transporting the food, while programming and food monitoring are done jointly by WFP, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development. Other local partners include UNICEF, FAO, USAID, CIDA and various NGOs who provide support in areas such as school infrastructure, deworming, school vegetable gardens and nutrition education.
The Government of Honduras steadily increased its commitment and programme ownership through the years. As part of a strategy to make the school meals program sustainable, financial support by the Government has increased steadily. The procurement strategy has changed to favour purchases from local smallholder farmers and actions were taken to involve the local community in program activities. 92 percent of the children enrolled in public pre-primary and primary schools receive school meals.
The budget allocated to the school meals programme in 2011 amounted to US$ 35 million (of which the Government contributed US$ 30 million, or 85%, and WFP the remaining US$ 5 million). Ten years ago, the Government had only provided 16 percent of the overall budget.
In 2009, the school meals programme was linked to the Purchase for Progress (P4P). Since then, more than 18,000 tons of maize and beans were bought from some 11,000 small farmers for the programme. In 2011, nearly half of the maize and beans for the daily school meal ration was bought from smallholders through P4P. In addition, the same smallholder farmers sold over 6,000 tons to the private local agroindustry. Overall, it is estimated that the farmers’ yearly income increased by US$ 500, while their yields increased by 50 to 80 percent.
The Government is integrating local communities into the programme. Through parents committees, the communities are responsible for the management and preparation of the food and for overall programme monitoring. The municipalities assist in food transportation and storage, and teachers make sure that schools meet hygiene standards. Fairs and cultural activities have been organized to raise funds and awareness among community members, the private sector and local media. In 2011, US$170,000 were raised locally and then invested in cups and plates for 130,000 children.
The Government’s financial commitment, the wide support at the community level and the emphasis on purchases from smallholder farmers are important steps towards ensuring the sustainability of the Honduran school meals programme over the long term.