The Mexican Embassy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development, launched the “Mesoamerica Without Hunger Initiative” on Tuesday April 5th, in Belmopan. The initiative stems from the Millennium Development Goal to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. “Mesoamerica without Hunger” is a program of cooperation between countries in the South-South region that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. With aid from the Mexican Government through the Mexican International Development Cooperation Agency (AMEXCID) and with technical support from the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Mesoamerica Without Hunger seeks to strengthen institutional frameworks for achieving Food and Nutrition Security and individualized attention to Family Farming. As from last year, seven Mesoamerican countries and one from the Caribbean have been in the “Mesoamerica Without Hunger Initiative” and Belize is now joining. The Keynote speaker at the Launch of the pilot project was His Excellency Ambassador Bruno Figueroa, the Director General for the Mesoamerica Project, AMEX.
His Excellency Ambassador Bruno Figueroa, the Director General for the Mesoamerica Project, AMEX:Through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation and Mexide, together with FAO and the countries of Central America, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic this regional strategy looks to strengthen local, national, and regional institutional frameworks to achieve this security and initiated attention to family farming while seeking to promote complimentarily and cooperation between countries participating in the program encouraging south south cooperation. The work will focus on the change of key development solutions such as good practices, effective public policies, technology, affordable technology and experience. In this way, the program will contribute to the development of Belize under the region by enhancing the resources and identifying synergies and avoiding the duplication of efforts. Today we celebrate the launching of Miss America without hunger in Belize with the purpose of starting three pilot school feeding programs based on the methodology of sustainable schools in the community of Santa Cruz, Santa Elena, and Pablo Brujo in the District of Toledo and I salute the representatives from these communities that are here today with us.
As we said, technical support for the project comes from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States (FAO). Speaking on behalf of FAO at te launch was Mr. Jorge O’Ryan.
Mr. Jorge O’Ryan, FAO Representative: The school feeding program represents probably represents one of the 3 most relevant public policies for eradication hunger, malnutrition and poverty across entire regions. We’re thinking that school feeding programs crossed with family farming and cash transfer, conditional or not conditional, becomes all together, social policies, that are capable of capitalizing social effects, social development and can boost different sectors of the economy and can bring employment and opportunities for development of such. Understanding and undernourishment is going together with obesity and overweight. We are seeing and we are experimenting in a region, high issues of hypertension, stroke, cancer, and illness associated with bad eating choices and somehow we see that school feeding program is not just a social aid, it is going to let children avoid to being hungry. It is also an opportunity for creating consciousness, knowledge, and awareness of importance of food and eating. Nowaday it seems that it’s a lot cheaper to buy chips from the super market than to buy local food and healthy food. So somehow choices are not just related to my capacity or understanding to making a choice but it’s also related to the choice that I have with my pocket and somehow we have to understand the complimentarily of the entire system. When we’re thinking about school feeding program, we’re trying to tackle all those dimensions as a whole.
Through this initiative, Belize’s current proposal aims to develop Sustainable School Feeding Programs in three communities of Toledo District. Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, Hon. Gaspar Vega, spoke about how the new programme would be administered in Belize.
D.PM Gaspar Vega: My ministry chooses under this program to strengthen its assistance to the Toledo District in the form of a pilot project to enhance a school garden, school feeding program, to expose children to the positive virtues of agriculture while at the same time providing nutritious food to be consumed at their school. This program should also assist with improving governance and institutional mechanisms for feeding programs and to facilitate linkages with other relevant public policies with special regard for family farming to achieving territorial development. Through this initiative, we will develop a pilot project where four schools in the Toledo District will be supported in the implementation of their sustainable school feeding programs. And school feeding programs will be implemented with family farms, supplying local quality produce for use in that program. The feeding program currently operates in mostly urban areas and is very limited. On the other hand, it is also important to take into consideration that the need for a school feeding response to a real need of ensuring children are fed at school, thereby tackling both hunger and its consequences while also contributing to the education and learning process.