Carlos eats a hot meal in school, which includes the donated Brazilian rice. (Copyright: WFP/Leonardo Hinojosa)
The Campo Elias Bravo School serves the Chulamúes community in the province of Carchi, Ecuador, close to the border with Colombia. Of the thirty-two children attending this school, 40 percent are Colombian or their parents come from Colombia. Many have fled violence to seek refuge on this side of the border. But life goes on: children need to go to school and also to eat in order to be able to concentrate in their studies.
CARCHI --On 28 September, few weeks after the new school year started, some WFP colleagues and I visited the community to assess the impact of the hot meals served at the Campo Elias School with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP). Children were eating rice with bean stew, potatoes and lettuce and tomato salad. The boy with the baseball cap in the picture, who also wrote the word “Brazil” with with rice grains, is called Carlos. I am not sure of his age, but he might be 10 years old.
Using rice to write the word Brazil is not only a good exercise of motor skills: It also helps the children to become aware of where the rice they are eating comes from. We explained to them that the rice came a long way from the other side of the continent to accompany their beans and salad.
Thanks to a generous gift from Brazil, the World Food Programme delivers its rations to schools in vulnerable areas close to the border. School children have the opportunity to eat a hot meal at lunch that is complemented with fruits and vegetables produced locally by small farmers. Small farmer associations –most of them formed by women— take their produce every Monday to the schools, and parents get organized to help prepare meals for their children.
It is important that children are well fed in order to have the energy and enthusiasm to concentrate in classes and also to play. Children and their families are learning in school about the importance of a good nutrition. Now they know that a dish should be colourful, have carbohydrates, vegetables and proteins.
There is something very good in this school: Even though there is no space for an orchard (despite being in a rural community) the cooperation of the parents is excellent, and a parent has lent a portion of land for the school orchard. Teachers and children are planting a vegetable garden that will yield products for children's meals in a short time. That way, their dishes will continue to have many colours along with the white Brazilian rice.
Leonardo, an Ecuadorian national, is an agricultural engineer and holds a Masters in Environmental Agrobiology. As field monitor in the WFP Sub-Office in Carchi, an Andean province on the border with Colombia, Leonardo monitors WFP activities supporting small farmers' associations and schools, school gardens and food assistance to refugees and vulnerable families living in host communities.