Too many children in the world go to bed hungry without at least one healthy meal a day. About 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
This World Food Day, we are highlighting our school-feeding program. In Guatemala, PCI is helping to end hunger by partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to feed more than 38,000 students in 294 schools spanning six municipalities in Huehuetenango, keeping them in the classroom and improving their ability to learn.
PCI’s USDA-funded Food for Education (FFE) program is being implemented in several countries, including Guatemala, Tanzania and Nicaragua. We also teach more effective farming and food storage techniques, and our programs help increase crop yields and continue to improve global food security.
Juan Carlos Solis has worked with PCI’s FFE program for two years, overseeing school gardens in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He grew up in the region and sees his work as a way to give back.
Working to coordinate food shipments to Guatemala from the U.S., Juan Carlos thought there must be an easier, faster, more efficient way to deliver food and take advantage of local agricultural projects as well as ensure school feeding sustainability.
He came up with the idea of matching local farmers with schools to provide the vegetables needed for school breakfasts and lunches. This is a win-win situation as local farmers have an instant market for their crops, schools can keep serving hot meals to children as the program phases out, and the children have the nutritional benefit of fresh local produce.
The initial idea turned into a plan of action and the Farmer-to-Schools pilot was launched this year. It matched farmers of the community of Hierba Buena in Cuilco with a local school. The result? A net gain of 33% through the production and sale of beans.
PCI is now working on expanding the Farmer-to-Schools initiative into additional communities. Vegetables (radish, cilantro, green beans) are grown and sold through a Women Empowered (WE) group in collaboration with local schools where there’s not a FFE program, in the communities of Polajá and Ixtahuacán.
In 2016, we expect to extend this initiative to additional schools that involve both the FFE program and WE groups.
Thanks to the leadership and innovation of Juan Carlos Solis and others, local farmers and schools will one day completely take over these programs to the benefit of their local economy and the nutrition and education of millions of children and their families.
This is true sustainability in action.
Along with 23 organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve signed an Open Letter that calls for leaders to put agriculture at the top of the global agenda.
Sustainable Development Goal 2 calls for achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Together we can build on the momentum of the newly established Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger.
Find us on Twitter at @PCIGlobal and follow the World Food Day 2015 conversation using hashtags: #StartsWithFarmers #WFD2015 and #SDG2