A country-by-country compilation of measures taken to address the loss of school meals caused by COVID-19 school closures
Argentina — On 14 March 2020, announced nation-wide school closures were going to be put in effect. With that announcement, the government made clear that it would be providing meals to vulnerable school-aged children. Schools would remain open and provide take-home rations to one member of their household. In addition to in-kind support, the government also announced that it has rolled out a food voucher programme delivered through the food card (Alimentar card). According to the government, a total of 1.1 million out of the 1.5 million eligible households have received the card, with the remaining 400,000 set to receive it by mid-April. In the meantime, the government will credit the value of the food vouchers to the 400,000 families through the Universal Child Allowance (AUH, Spanish acronym).
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Belize — Children that received meals under the national school feeding programme will continue receiving food and nutrition support through take-home food rations.
In Bolivia, the national government is planning to roll out a new cash transfer program — the Bono Familia program — with that will support low-income families with primary school-aged children. The program will go into effect on 6 April 2020. Transfers will be made to households in the amount of 500 Bolivianos (~US$ 73) per primary-school-aged child.
Cabo Verde — The government of Cabo Verde is providing immediate food assistance to 22,500 vulnerable households, which will cover about 30,000 school-age children.
Canada (British Columbia) — British Columbia’s (subnational jurisdiction) provincial government will be making arrangements to provide daily meals for vulnerable students that were benefitting from the province’s Community Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge (CommunityLink) funding.
Cayman Islands — The government of the Cayman Islands will continue supporting children under the national school lunch assistance programme through the Needs Assessment Unit or Feed Our Future programmes. The planned program of support will entail giving vulnerable families vouchers or hot meals to safeguard their children’s food security and nutritional status. In addition, the government is also promoting vulnerable families to seek additional support from the wider community to help them meet basic needs for food.
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In Chile, while schools are closing the Ministry of Education has prioritized that all children and adolescents continue to have access to daily food in a timely manner. The government has designed a food delivery system to continue to benefit 1,600,000 children and adolescents. Individual baskets will be delivered, containing breakfasts and lunches for 10 business days. Breakfast will consist of milk, cereal and eggs. The lunch will consist of legumes, meat in pre-prepared format, tuna, eggs, rice, noodles, fruit puree, among others.
Colombia — On 24 March 2020, the government of Colombia announced that children that benefit from the national school feeding programme — Programa de Alimentacion Escolar (PAE) — will continue to receive meals at home during the COVID-19-induced nation-wide school closures. To put this measure in place, President Iván Duque will be issuing a decree in the coming days. The government intends to implement the measure within the same week of the announcement and will not only cover the next few weeks but also plans to cover the coming few months.
Costa Rica — On 20 March 2020, the government of Costa Rica announced that it would be providing 850,000 students that were benefiting from the national school feeding programme (PANEA, Spanish acronym) with take-home rations. The take-home rations consist of a package of perishable and non-perishable items to offset the nutritional impact of COVID-19-induced school closures. The cost per package is ₡ 20,600 (~ US$ 37).
Dominican Republic — Dominican government’s National Institute of Student Welfare (INABIE, Spanish acronym) announced that — in an effort to safeguard the food security and nutritional status of learners — it will be distributing take-home food rations to replace hot cooked meals for households with students benefiting from the Extended School Day (Jornada Escolar Extendida) or School Feeding Program (Programa de Almuerzo Escolar). The take-home food rations will be distributed through schools.
India has one of the biggest school meal programmes in the world and has just announces that it will introduce alternative arrangements to ensure that schoolchildren are not denied the basic nutrition they get through their mid-day meals. These alternate arrangements will not cost the government anything extra. It will be left up to individual states, how they wish to make these arrangement — whether they supply uncooked grains, cooked meals, or transferring money to the parents.
Jamaica will be providing nutritional support to school-aged children through a flagship cash transfer scheme- the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Under PATH’s food support plan, schoolchildren will be receiving baked products, fruit juices, milk and water). Identified schools will be utilised as distribution points for two weeks. In addition, plans are that local private sector actors will pitch in by distributing food packages at specific drop-off points in community.
Osaka, Japan — Starting in April 2020, the Osaka Municipal Government will be providing free lunches for all students attending public primary and elementary schools as a measure to cushion the financial burden on families due too the COVID-19 pandemic. This school feeding programme will reach approximately 165,000 primary and secondary school students.
South Africa (Western Cape Province) — South Africa’s Western Cape provincial government has allocated 18 million Rand (~US$ 958,000) to go to supporting the 483,000 learners that are beneficiaries of the province’s School Nutrition Programme. The provincial government will provide take-away meals or take-home food rations, with schools being responsible for the modality used.
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Spain — On 12 March 2020, the Government of Spain adopted the Royal Decree Law 7/2020, putting in place measures to mitigate the adverse socio-economic impact of COVID-19. The law stipulates that families with children receiving school meals will be entitled to financial aid or the direct provision of food distribution during school closures. The government has earmarked funding worth € 25 million for food support to vulnerable children.
Trinidad and Tobago — The government will be providing households with children enrolled in the national School Feeding Programme with temporary Food Support Card, particularly those families that are not already covered by other national food support programme. This measure reaches a total of 2,050 households. Food support cards are valued at 510 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (~ US$ 75).
United Kingdom — On 20 March 2020, schools across the United Kingdom were closed. By March 31, 2020, the government formally launched a national voucher scheme to ensure that the 1.3 million eligible school-aged children will continue to have access to meals during COVID-19-induced school closures. Under the scheme, each school-aged child would receive £15 per week voucher (equivalent to £3 per day), with the vouchers being redeemable at all major supermarkets. The value of the vouchers exceeds the costs of free school meals, as the government recognises the increased costs placed on parents given that they will not be purchasing food in bulk and thus will incur higher costs. Families with school-aged children can know their eligibility through the government website. The delivery of the vouchers will be under the responsibility of schools. The government has also provided the flexibility for schools to utilise their existing in-house caterers and hire a local meal delivery service provider, with the government reimbursing the additional costs.
United States — 18 March 2020, the United States Federal Government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act empowers the US Department of Agriculture to approve state government plans to provide emergency food stamp assistance to households with school-aged children who would be benefiting from free or reduced-price meals had there not been school closures.
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