Outsourced Lunch


08/12/2010 Self-management of food in the schools of Santa Catarina is coming to an end. 70 percent of the 1350 state schools in Santa Catarina already have their packed lunch outsourced, in a process that was started in February of this year and which will probably achieve all schools until November. With outsourcing, however, the practice of students to experience all the feeding cycle, from planting to consumption of food from the vegetable gardens of the school may be endangered and the demobilization may happen in essential steps of programs such as AMBIAL an Environmental and Food Education Project, which runs in 96 schools of the State.

The main actions of this project are the agro-ecologic vegetable garden, a living laboratory for the students and a community kitchen, where lunch is prepared with the vegetable garden products. There is also the possibility of the community using the kitchen at different times from those for preparing lunch and learn about organic and sustainable food. Total utilization of food, waste reduction and rational use of water and energy are other assumptions of AMBIAL. Some full time schools (FTS) also use the vegetable garden in the pedagogical practices as well as in the feeding.

The edict for outsourcing was launched in 2008. Four companies from So Paulo won the bidding and began to work in one of the four regions in which the state was divided, based on menus created by the State Department of Education. The meals are prepared in schools and are exclusively for students. Teachers and employees receive meal ticket.

According to the State Department of Education, with a company that is taking care of the food, the school board can focus more on pedagogic activities. There was also the need to regulate the hiring of cooks, now under the companies supervision; before that, the Association of Parents and Teachers were in charge of the resources. But wages have declined, according to the Education Workers Union, from a salary and a half to two and a half, to one salary. The amount spent by the State has doubled from the current R$ 69 million to R$ 146 million when the outsourcing will be completely implemented, as reported in a meeting of the Committee on Education, Culture and Sport of the Legislative Assembly. According to Direction of Assistance to the Student of the State Department of Education, the new costs involve wages, purchase of food, transport, utensils and kitchens infrastructure.

In the outsourced model, it is required that only certain products be organic, such as sugar and rice, as has already been happening. Companies must comply with federal law 1.947/2009, which requires the application of 30% of federal funds for school feeding in buying food from family farms, preferably organic products. We have no records that they have really bought them", says the nutritionist of the State Department of Education, Gladys Milanez.

The companies are also responsible for the final destination of organic waste and meals leftovers. It is the companies obligation to carry out a plan in order to avoid waste, but, according to the nutritionist, the final destination of the waste is the garbage and very few schools have made waste composting. One exception is the School of Basic Education Frei Lucinio Korte in Doutor Pedrinho, where the father of a student has been coordinating the composting.

There are no concrete studies yet on the results of outsourcing in schools, and regional public hearings are scheduled to discuss about it. I believe that AMBIAL schools should work as usual, but somehow the program will not be experienced as intensely as before, notes the coordinator of the Integrated Education of the State Department of Education, Vnia Santos Ribeiro.

The new model also has consequences for the pilot project of purchasing organic foods from small farmers, carried out in 18 schools of Palhoa, in the macro-region of Florianopolis and in the State Institute of Education. The project would be expanded this year and would be a restart of the Program Sabor Saber, created in 2001, based on the Education Committee of the Forum of Macio Central of Morro da Cruz, in Florianopolis, in partnership with the Association of Ecologic Farmers of the Slopes of the Serra Geral, which ran until 2006 in 173 schools.

Less autonomy - In the Elementary School Aldo Cmara of So Jos, in the macro-region of Florianpolis, 50 out of 400 students participate of AMBIAL. The vacancies of the project depend on the number of students. Two axes of this project are carried out there: introduction to research and art-education. The school makes recycling and reuse of materials. The paper is collected in the classroom and the tips of the pencils go for composting. The other materials are also collected, and the students and their parents bring from home. Materials such as polystyrene is not used. There is still a program of collection of cooking oil to make soap.

Outsourcing has interfered a bit and interrupted a process that was happening; we are still adjusting. A constant dialogue would be necessary. The school was not consulted about it. We lost the autonomy to choose what we consume. In the past, the schools made their purchases from traders in the region and products such as honey, molasses, banana candy came from small farmers, now this doesnt happen anymore, and we dont know the origin of the products, said the pedagogical assistant Andria Maria Rosa.

According to Andria, the opinions are divided, but most of the students liked the changes in the school lunch and the food seems to be more balanced. The school has two kitchens, the new one is used by the outsourced group, and the old one is used by teachers. Only the medicinal herbs of the garden are used for the students as tea, instead of medicine. This tea is prepared in the old kitchen. The director of the school Nedi Mafra Ribeiro believes that the new situation eases the administrative workload and lets the school focus on its main objective, the teaching-learning process.

The teacher Cleide Schimitz said that outsourcing has directly interfered in her project, the Introduction to Research, which explores environmental and food education content in the classrooms and through the organic garden, the medicinal herbs garden and the preparation of food. Students take home the products of the vegetable garden; they can no longer eat here she said. To use the kitchen it is necessary authorization and there are few free schedules between preparing meals and cleaning.

At 10:00 am and 3:30 pm the meal is served, and there are days on which the menu includes rice, beans and meat, as it already happened. For the AMBIAL students, who spend all day at school, an arrangement was made, and besides lunch, breakfast and an afternoon snack are also served.

The meals waste goes to garbage. The ex-cook Isabel Ftima da Silva collects peels for composting. Isabel would be rehired by the outsourced Company, but as her salary would be reduced she just chose to continue taking care of the vegetable garden and general services. Previously, we were used everything, from the sauce to vegetables; now they come frozen. There was also the reuse of the vegetables, we took courses on this. With banana, we made cakes, banana flour, sweets, we utilized the peel. Papaya was picked straight from the tree, we made sweets, and there was no waste". With also the possibility of outsourcing general services in schools, she is concerned about the future of the vegetable garden, composting and maintenance of trees. This may end up; we need someone to assist, she said.
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