Qali Warma [kal-e war-muh]
Improving nutrition and education of Peruvian children.
Qali Warma means “Strong Child” in Quechua, a native Peruvian language, and is the National School Nutrition Program started on March 2013 by the government of Peru.
The aim of this program is to guarantee a high-quality and diversified food service for children in public schools from age 3 through primary. The program covers every school day in the year and provides kids with breakfast and lunch before they head back home.
The program currently serves more than 3 million children at 58,000 educational centers nationwide with a budget of USD 369 million. This program is under the supervision of the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion, seeking to benefit students, local producers and the Peruvian economy as a whole.
This program will mainly create value for the Peruvian children who don’t have access to a proper nutrition.
It is hard to picture government as a business, at least it is not a very explicit model, but when thinking about it from the perspective of the creation of value I would define it as the value generated for citizens through the management of taxes and fees collected from them. Value here would range from security, liberty, access to health care and education, adequate infrastructure, enforce equal rights, provide justice and the list could go on (or reduce) according to your view on what a government should be held accountable for.
It might be difficult to get consensus on many of the topics mentioned before but I think access to food, especially for children, who have no say on being born and that are absolutely defenseless, is something that should be a priority for any government. That said, the Peruvian government has implemented, along its history, many programs trying to solve this issue and failed miserably. The corruption, lack of quality control and poor execution has prevented any of those programs to successfully obtain what they were seeking: providing healthy food to children who had no access to it.
How does it work? or actually, why?
Qali Warma was designed in a way that food purchasing was not going to be performed by the government. In the past, this type of programs have not been successful, leading to corruption, low quality products, inconsistency in delivery and overall dissatisfaction. The fact that the government designed this program based on the calories and nutritional facts each meal has to have and then allowed local communities to handle the process instead of centralizing the purchasing process and attempting to deliver the same meal to every student solves many problems: (1) the lack of availability of same ingredients in every region, (2) relying on few suppliers for the whole country, (3) the distance and logistical problems of centralizing the production without having a good distribution system or even the proper infrastructure of highways and probably one of the most important ones (5) they decreased significantly the risk of corruption by creating engagement of the community to provide quality goods for their kids.
At the beginning, the program had to overcome challenges associated with food and service quality and coverage. After some months they improved purchasing procedures, the infrastructure of schools for food handling, hygiene requirements in educational establishments, stricter protocols and due diligence on suppliers and coverage of native communities in the Amazon region.
The program starts with guidelines provided by the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion about recipes and technical criteria for the meals through age-adjusted food portion tables, changes to ensure adequate nutrition and adjustment of portion costs. They have divided the country in 8 geographic regions and provide different recipes for each region.
Two committees are created at each school or district: (a) Purchasing Committee and (b) School Feeding Committee. Both co-manage the buying process and the budget provided by the government for every enrolled child. The Purchasing Committee is responsible for (i) selecting the best qualified suppliers, (ii) conducting the purchase process and contracts, (iii) supervising that the contracts are being fulfilled by the suppliers, (iv) reporting back to the Ministry about the expenses made. This committees are formed by parents, representatives of public health institutions and local authorities. They are autonomous groups and free to choose their own suppliers but in order to promote local purchases they tend to give more points to those who buy from local producers in the area.
The School Feeding Committee is formed by the School Principal, one teacher and three parents. They are in charge of (i) managing the collection and storage of products and meals prepared that are delivered by the suppliers, (ii) supervising the quality and rations of products delivered, (iii) distributing food to the students, monitor the consumption process and communicating any incident in relation with the food supply.
The involvement of different stakeholders in the community has generated constant seeking of improvement in food handling and preparation practices and the implementation of good eating habits at school.
Education as the ultimate goal
Education is a critical problem in Peru, both through the quality of education and through infrastructure. Of the 62,000 public school, 15% require immediate substitution, 56% are under restoration and 29% are operating properly. This statistics get only worse when you learn that from the 7.5 million students in the country, 5.6 million go to a public school. In a country where most students are placed at level 1 or below 1 in performance scales in mathematics (75%), science (69%) and reading (60%) of the PISA 2012 (Programme for International Student Assessment) evaluation, an increase in a proper nutrition on school age will help cognitive development of Peruvian children, but that is only one part of the solution.The difference of this program with its predecessors, which distributed food directly to low income houses, is in the fact that parents are now motivated to take their kids to school instead of keeping them in the house to help them with chores or making them go to work. Qali Warma has promoted an unprecedented increase in the attendance and retention rate of kids at school. This model has been replicated in other countries with successful results and supported by institutions like the World Bank and the FAO. The fact that Peruvians are able to believe again in the government system and that programs can be created in a way in which beneficiaries actually receive the benefit is an achievement that goes far beyond Qali Warma. This is definitely a program that will have to continue improving but it is one to be proud of.
Student comments on Qali Warma [kal-e war-muh]
Your point about food purchasing not being performed by the government was especially well taken for all the reasons you listed above. Nutrition is one of those determinants of health that has a multiplier effect when provided adequately. In another developing country, for example, a research study included two groups with a chronic disease. One group received medication to treat their condition, while the other group received medication and a food subsidy. The group that received the medication and food subsidy not only had better disease outcomes, but attended clinic visits more regularly as well.
I really liked that Qali Warma created committee’s that were composed of a variety of stakeholders, especially including the parents and teachers. I would imagine that these two groups would be most concerned for the well-being of the kids, as opposed to government officials or food suppliers. As with any government program, carefully aligning incentives is key to successful outcome. Not at all surprised that World Bank/FAO picked up on this and tried to replicate it elsewhere.