A river called Atlantic. This is how Alberto da Costa e Silva, one of the greatest Brazilian experts in Africa, describes the historical relation between Brazil and the African continent. Narrowed by centuries of exchanges and migration these strong links drove a group of school cooks and teachers from São Paulo to Senegal, this week.
Between 8 and 12 of June, two teachers and two school cooks from the Municipal Education Network visited Dakar, capital of Senegal. They joined a technical mission from the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger.
The trip was part of an award granted for the first place in the Education beyond the Plate Award, organized by São Paulo Municipality in partnership with the Centre of Excellence to stimulate the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the schools, prizing the cooks and teachers responsible by the meals.
Based on these success stories, the proposal of the trip was to promote the exchange of experiences between Brazil and Africa. During the travel, teachers and cooks had the opportunity to present the school feeding programme implemented in the city of São Paulo to ministers of Education from 17 African countries – gathered in Senegal for a regional meeting about school feeding promoted by WFP.
Study visit to rural area
But what is it that children eat in the schools of Senegal? What type of food is prepared? How the communities organized themselves for that? What are the main challenges? What is similar and what is different from what happens in Brazil?
To answer questions like these the São Paulo teachers and cooks crossed the Atlantic and visited Africa for the first time.
Brazilian cooks and teachers meet Senegalese students and school staff at Oudiour Primary Public School
Photo: WFP/Mariana Rocha
“We are having a unique opportunity to inspire African countries to develop their own public policies to fight food insecurity”, said Erika Fisher, director of the School Feeding Department in the Municipality of São Paulo, that accompanied the trip.
Besides Erika, the group was composed by the teacher Sonia Maria Maruso Ribeiro, the cook Maria Aparecida Gomes Martins, teacher Dirce Zilles G. Borges dos Santos, the pedagogic coordinator Vivian Brandão Polli and the cook Claudia de Jesus Silva.
Tuesday, the 9th, they visited Oudiour Primary Public School, supported by WFP via a Cash&Voucher programme. The school is located 160 km from Dakar, in Gossas department, in the region of Fatick.
The school, that dates from 1962 and it is one of the oldest in Senegal, has 184 students registered in five different grades.
There, school feeding means active participation from the children’s mothers (called in French “les femmes mammans”). They work in shifts to prepare the two daily meals: snack and lunch.
The visit allowed a rich exchange of experiences between São Paulo’s and Oudiour’s teachers and cooks. The Brazilian group was warmly welcomed in the school and joined a snack time –when a traditional mix of corn and peanut was served.
The Senegalese community was very interested in exchanging ideas with the Brazilians teachers because the school receives mostly donors’ visits. The São Paulo cooks were able to put themselves in the Senegalese cooks’ shoes and even exchanged some recipes.
“The visit to the school was historical! We could learn a lot about the local reality, besides providing a testimonial about the relevance of our programme and to show how it can inspire colleagues from other countries to look for new horizons”, said Erika.
Later, the group met the school board and the parents committee that is very involved in the school’s activities.
It was in this same school in Oudiour that WFP launched in 30 April a new project, "School Canteen via Cash Vouchers", which is spreading to 260 schools and six new regions across the country.
Instead of traditional food distribution, WFP supplies school canteens with cash vouchers so that they can purchase local food themselves, boosting the local economy and stimulating family farming.
Exchange of experiences
Back to Dakar, in the next day, the group did a presentation about their work in São Paulo to the participants of the regional workshop on school feeding, organized by the WFP Regional Bureau in Dakar and the WFP Centre of Excellence.
The group presented a brief history of the school feeding evolution in São Paulo, highlighting that they also once received support from WFP and that progress took decades to be built.
The cooks shared some challenges they face in the promotion of healthy meals in the schools and told the story of the creation of one school garden that was possible because of the idea and determination of teacher Sonia.
Erika also gave details about the Brazilian school feeding programme. The cooks explained to the audiences how the meals are prepared in the Brazilian schools and presented their winning projects in the Education beyond the Plate Award.
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