What’s for lunch in Brazil?

[Over the next couple of months before What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World is published, I’ll be highlighting some of the countries that are featured in the book. This is the first in the series.] 

In the last few years, Brazil has emerged as the darling of the world economy. The GDP is growing while income inequality is decreasing.

Of course, it had no where to go but up on the equality issue. It wasn’t so long ago that Brazil was the most unequal country in the world, with the wealthiest 10 percent earning half of all income. But a vast suite of government programs aimed at poverty reduction has meant poverty has actually been cut in half. Countries around the world are now looking to Brazil for advice on how to do the same. (In fact, political economist Doug Henwood wrote recently that New York City could use a few tips—it’s now more unequal than Brazil.)

Food access is a huge part of the Brazilian strategy and free school lunch programs in public schools have long been part of the  landscape.

Photo from What's for Lunch? Copyright Yvonne Duivenvoorden

But it’s not just about free food for kids. School lunch is integrated into other aspects of the food system. Seasonal produce, for instance, is prioritized and schools must buy a portion of ingredients from local farmers (like the banana in the image above). Everyone benefits: kids get great fresh food; farmers have a ready outlet for their produce; and these new relationships grease the economy.

This kind of connecting the dots between schools and farms, education and the economy is exactly the way forward. No wonder Brazil is becoming a model for the rest of us.

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