85 million at risk from LatAm school food program closures: FAO

Santiago (AFP) –


As many as 85 million children in school feeding programs across Latin America are at risk after many countries in the region shut schools over the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Food Agency warned Tuesday.

Suspension of food programs "will pose a challenge to guarantee food security and nutritional status for many children, especially the most vulnerable groups of the population," the Food and Agriculture Organization said.

FAO urged governments to implement emergency measures including distributing food to the most vulnerable families, increasing social protection programs and emergency food rations, as well as exempting school children's food from taxes.

"Social protection systems, for example, can play a key role in guaranteeing the food of the most vulnerable population in the coming weeks," FAO regional representative Julio Berdeque said.

Some 85 million boys and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean are fed meals at school, while for nearly 10 million, school food programs "constitute one of the main sources of safe food they receive daily."

More than 1,100 people have been infected by the coronavirus in some 20 Latin American nations, and eight people have died.