Deusina de Oliveira Coelho cares for the children in the Dante School in a poor neighborhood in Porto Velho, state of Rondônia, north region of Brazil. She cares for them tenderly, as if they were her own. So, when the youngsters would complain about being hungry, it was especially painful for her.
“Three years ago we went through a difficult time when we did not have anything for the school lunch program,” she says.
“The children would tell me they didn’t get anything to eat at school and they didn’t have anything to eat at home, either. What could I do? The children cried because they were hungry and I cried for them.”
The crying stopped when the Rural Producers Association of Porto Velho began selling produce to the government through its Supply Corporation (Conab) which in turn donates food to charitable organizations, including the Dante School. “Now everybody is happy. No more empty stomachs,” says Deusina.
The program is now operational in eight states (Bahia, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rondônia, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Norte).
In 2003 it had a budget of US$1.9 million (R$5.8 million) which was spent in 48 municipalities, benefitting 2,932 farmers and 755 institutions.
Just in Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia, 20 charitable institutions serving 4,000 people are enrolled in the program. But this is a program that also benefits the family farm.
“With this program many people have gone back to farming,” says Pedro Bordalo, the president of the Rural Producer Association of Porto Velho.
“The program works. It provides the farmer with security because he knows where and when he can sell his goods and that he will be paid for them,” says Bordalo.
Farmer Lori Bizarello is commemorating the program. At 69, she grows passion fruit and okra. What she especially likes is the price she gets. By not having to go through middlemen she gets a much better price for her produce.
“We used to make so little. Now we have a better life and we are helping the needy. We hope the future will be even better and we will be able to continue producing more and more,” she says.
Translator: Allen Bennett