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The school feeding programme

Brief history

The school feeding programme (SFP) and day-care centre programme (DCCP) in Chile are administered by the National Board of School Assistance and Scholarships, whose main objective is to provide social and financial assistance to low-income preschool and school-age children. In the case of the DCCP, these benefits are linked to health, nutrition, and development. In the case of the SFP, they are linked to the concept of academic performance, which is defined as the adequate use of the child's capabilities in order to avoid repeating grades and leaving school [9].

The National Board of School Assistance and Scholarships was created in 1964 as an autonomous body with a central board in Santiago and with regional corporations. Initially, the organization grew rapidly in physical infrastructure and administration instead of employing funds to provide the benefits for which it was created. In fact, until 1976 around 40% of the budget was spent on programme administration. In 1979 the responsibility for providing and distributing food rations was handed over to the private sector, resulting in a drastic reduction of administrative costs, which now represent only 4.5% of the budget [10]. The National Board's function is to oversee the SFP, the DCCP, and the private industries involved by carrying out technical and administrative checks.



The SFP concentrates its action on low-income schoolchildren, from 6 to 14 years of age, attending public and subsidized private schools. The objective is to improve academic performance through the provision of free food. This assistance consists of lunch and breakfast or an afternoon snack at the school and is distributed during approximately 170 school days per year. (Most of the beneficiaries receive either breakfast and lunch, or lunch and an afternoon snack, depending on their school time schedule.) Currently, the system operates in 6,782 schools throughout the country. In 1988 it distributed 522, 000 breakfasts and 528,000 lunches, and 28,600 students received additional home-based food assistance.

Since 1985 the SFP has also operated during the summer in approximately 1,138 schools, delivering lunch rations and a snack. In 1986, 175,000 children received these additional benefits for a period of 40 days.

The SFP provides 800 calories per person per day, of which 38% is distributed as breakfast and 62% as lunch. In terms of protein, it provides 15 to 20 g per person per day, of which half must be of animal origin. These rations correspond to approximately 40% of the daily calorie and protein requirements of a 10-year-old child according to FAO/WHO/UNU 1985 recommendations.

Table 4 shows the number of rations delivered by the SFP since 1965. Between 1967 and 1974 the number of breakfasts distributed was 50% higher than for 1975-1988. The annual number of lunch rations distributed from 1975 to 1986 was 30% lower than from 1965 to 1974. This decrease was due to budget constraints, particularly during the recessionary periods of 1975-1976 and 1982-1984. Despite that, the scholarships for food assistance in students' homes have increased by over 100% since 1974.

TABLE 4. Average number of rations delivered per day by the SFP, and students' homes assisted, 1965-1988

  School rations (thousands)  
  Breakfast Lunch Homes assisteda
1965 655.3 230.8 _
1966 838.8 357.2 _
1967 1,055.5 528.7 _
1968 1,174.4 576.8 _
1969 1,180.0 580.0 _
1970 1,301.2 619.2 2,390
1971 1,408.4 653.6 3,528
1972 1,536.6 715.9 4,900
1973 1,445.6 674.3 6,101
1974 1,338.5 663.2 8,141
1975 745.7 593.6 10,028
1976 769.8 361.0 18,112
1977 1,055.2 296.3 18,235
1978 1,054.6 307.6 19,871
1979 759.4 294.5 25,573
1980 759.9 295.0 25,409
1981 759.1 295.0 25 115
1982 689.7 332.9 21 646
1983 673.3 322.9 21,743
1984 674.6 424.8 20,417
1985 694.0 599.9 20,114
1986 647.8 528.8 23,064
1987 528.0 490.0 27,726
1988 522.0 528.0 28,600

Source: National Board of School Assistance and Scholarships.
a. Each student receives four meals per day.

Information provided by ODEPLAN [7], based on a national representative sample of 20,000 homes, showed that the coverage of the SFP programme at the national level was 34.9% in 1985. In the urban sector 27.8% of the schoolchildren enrolled received this assistance, with 92.3% of them belonging to the three lowest income quintiles. The corresponding proportions in the rural sector were 57% and 77.7% respectively (table 5). Unofficial estimates for 1987 indicate that the coverage of this programme declined to 22% of children in primary schools.


Targeting criteria

The criteria and process for selecting potential beneficiaries have varied over the years. From 1980 to 1983 they were determined according to the socioeconomic level of the household, measured by an integrated indicator that included data on housing, employment, education, and income, as well as the child's need for food, as indicated by the teacher. Since 1984, the nutrition status of each child has been included as a criterion for allocating benefits. Educational indicators, such as school-grade repetition, were added in 1985.

Since 1985, schools have been first ranked according to characteristics such as average nutrition status and academic performance, the teacher's perception of students' need, and parents' level of education. Resources are then given to each municipality, which is responsible for their distribution in accordance with the criteria.

No formal evaluation of the programme's impact has been carried out so far. Nevertheless, given adherence to the selection process, it can be argued that it is reaching mostly children of low-income households.

TABLE 5. Urban and rural coverage of the SFP by income quintile, 1985

Quintile Urban Rural
Beneficiaries Non-benef Cartes Beneficiaries Non-benef Cartes
N % N % N % N %
1 185,591 42 256,478 58 87,169 61 55,777 39
2 104,900 29 254,464 71 56,090 57 41,959 43
3 51,461 21 195,953 79 48,296 53 42,467 47
4 19,807 11 156,221 89 31,925 54 26,796 46
5 8,440 8 99,200 92 22,847 55 18,793 45
Total 370,199 28 962,316 72 246,327 57 185,792 43

Source: Ref. 11.
Beneficiaries were children receiving at least breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, or any combination of these. Non-beneficiaries were those who did not receive any free food at scool.

The day-care centre programme


The day-care centre programme (DCCP) was created in 1970 as an autonomous corporation with the objectives of planning, coordinating, promoting, stimulating, and supervising care given to low-income children from birth to 5 years of age attending day-care centres under its authority. These centres operate nine hours daily from Monday to Friday in low-income areas where problems of undernutrition, cultural deprivation, and crowding occur [12].

The main objective of the DCCP is to provide comprehensive care to children of low-income families, giving priority of enrolment to undernourished children or those at nutritional risk. In addition to on-site feeding, the programme includes activities to stimulate motor and psychosocial development that are carried out by university-trained nursery teachers and assistants. Furthermore, an important objective of the programme is to stimulate both community participation through educational activities and direct participation in child-care activities by means of an organized parents' centre [13].

TABLE 6. Average nutritional contribution of rations provided by the DCCP

  Protein (g) Lipids (g) Energy (kcal)
Breakfast 13 4 255
Lunch 17 18 450
Afternoon snack 13 4 255

Source: Ref. 14.


Characteristics of the on-site food component

At present, the programme provides 80% of the daily calorie recommendations for healthy children, and 150 additional calories to those at biomedical risk. The average nutritional contribution of breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack is shown in table 6. The adequacy of these diets according to FAD/WHO recommendations varies from 55% to 74% of calorie requirements, which is slightly below programme objectives, and from 145% to 186% of protein requirements. The degree of adequacy declines as the age of the beneficiary increases [14].

Figure 1 illustrates the coverage of the DCCP since 1978. A rapid increase can be observed between 1984, when 46,500 children received benefits in 368 centres, and 1988, when 57,135 children in 421 centres received benefits.

Table 7 shows the age distribution of preschool children attending the DCCP and programme coverage with respect to total enrolment in public and private institutions. Increased coverage between 1985 and 1987 is observed for preschoolers from 2 to 5 years of age, whereas the number under 2 years of age receiving benefits remained constant. In 1988 a total of 55,136 children were enrolled in the DCCP; this figure accounted for 36% of children in extreme poverty. When non-governmental institutions giving comprehensive care (food and child development) to preschoolers are included, this proportion increases to 77.6%.

Because the DCCP is the most expensive of the three main distribution programmes in per capita terms, a new modality of day-care centres, CADEL, was implemented in 1987, covering approximately 10,000 preschool-age children. Under this new programme, paraprofessional personnel have replaced university-trained professionals. Community participation has become an integral feature, and less sophisticated educational materials are being used. The objective is to reduce costs so as to expand coverage.

FIG. 1. Evolution of the number of children served by the national day-care centre programme (not including children participating in the CADEL scheme-in 1988 approximately 10,000 children)

TABLE 7. Distribution of children participating in the DCCP, 1985-1988

  Infants (0-2 years) Preschoolers
(2-5 years)
% of enrolmenta
1985 4,767 49,201 16.1
1986 4,249 51,660 _
1987 4,272 54,102 _
1988 4,216 52,992 _

Source: Secretaría de Desarrollo y Asistencia Social
a. Percentage of total enrolment in public and private institutions.



Since restoring undernourished children is the main objective of the DCCP, an evaluation of changes in the nutrition status of 464 children attending 20 DCCP centres in Santiago was carried out [15]. The results showed considerable improvement. When they were initially enrolled in the programme, 30.6% of the children were deficient in weight, 45.7% in height, and 11.2% in weight for height. After 10 months of attendance, their nutrition status had improved, with the number with deficient weight declining by 26% and the number with deficient weight for height by 65%. The study also included measurements of psychological and intellectual performance, both of which exhibited significant improvement; 67% of the children initially experiencing deficits recovered partially or totally in terms of intellectual capacity.


Total expenditure on supplementary feeding programmes

Table 8 shows the annual expenditures on the three programmes from 1974 to 1988. Except for expenditures on the DCCP, which increased rapidly until 1975, total outlays have fluctuated without exhibiting a long-run increasing trend. Nevertheless, because of targeting efforts, the benefits are mainly reaching the poor, with the consequent reduced rates in undernutrition and infant mortality shown earlier.

TABLE 8. Annual expenditures on nutrition intervention programmes (millions of US dollars), 1974-1988

1974 35.4 - 6.4
1975 36.2 - 5.1
1976 36.4 - 6.5
1977 43.1 - 10.8
1978 36.9 35.8 19.2
1979 40.1 37.3 19.7
1980 29.3 38.7 17.1
1981 36.3 44.7 16.8
1982 37.9 43.0 17.9
1983 29.7 43.8 16.9
1984 47.9 46.7 16.0
1985 42.1 47.6 17.0
1986 35.9 43.1 18.2
1987 44.0 34.4 17.2
1988 42.7 31.5 19.8

Source: Secretaría de Desarrollo y Asistencia Social.

Figures for actual annual expenditures, deflated by the consumer price index (yearly averages, National Institute of Statistics), then converted to US dollars using the average exchnage rate for 1987

The cost of the three programmes per beneficiary per year varies as follows: US$38.1 for CFP, US$62.8 for SFP, and US$300 for the DCCP. (Only the value of the food and its transportation to the health centres are counted as costs of the CFP; other costs, such as labour and physical infrastructure, are counted as health-care system costs. In the case of the SFP and the DCCP, all direct costs, including the value of the food, transportation, distribution, and handling, are included.) Accordingly, the costs per calorie distributed are US$0.029, US$0.044, and US$0.15 respectively (table 9). Therefore, CFP is the least costly of the programmes in terms of providing calories. It must be remembered, however, that calorie intake is only one of the dimensions of nutrition status, and each of these programmes has other integrated aspects: the health component in the CFP, academic performance of children in the SFP, and psychosocial child development in the DCCP.

These programmes have all been instrumental in improving the health and nutrition status of mothers, infants, and children of low-income households. They have also been important in countering the negative effects of economic cycles on the nutrition situation of the poor.

TABLE 9. Cost per beneficiary and per calorie of supplementary feeding programmes in Chile, 1986

  Total annual cost (millions of USS) Total kcal distributed eneficianes (millions) Beneficiaries (thousands) Cost per beneficiary per year (US$) Cost per kcal (US cents) Kcalper beneficiary per day
CFP 39.7 135,457 1,042.0 38.1 0.0293 130.2
SFP 35.0 80,244 557.3 62.8 0.0436 394.0
DCCP 16.0 10,571 55.9 300.0 0.1510 58.0

Source: Elaborated by authors on the basis of information from the Ministry of Health


1. Hurtado H, Muchnik E, Valdés A. The political economy of agricultural pricing policies: the case of Chile. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1988.

2. Ministry of Health, Chile. Situación nutricional de la población bajo control SNSS. Santiago: Ministry of Health, 1988.

3. Castañeda T. Determinantes del descenso de la mortalidad infantil en Chile 1975-1983. Cuadernos de Economía 1985;22(66):195-214.

4. Mardones SF, González N, Salinas J. Descripción del Programa Nacional de Alimentación Complementaria, Chile 1937-1983. Document prepared for PAHO, INTA, University of Chile, 1985.

5. Atalah E, Puentes R, Castillo C, Radrigan M. Programa de Alimentación Complementaria 1965-1985. Rev Chil Pediatr 1985;56(5):362-68.

6. Harbert L, Scandizzo P. Distribución de alimentos e intervención en la nutrición: el caso de Chile. Cuadernos de Economía 1985;22(66):215-46.

7. ODEPLAN. Encuesta de caracterización socioeconómica de la población. Santiago: CASEN, 1985.

8. Torche A. Una evaluación económica del Programa Nacional de Alimentación Complementaria (PNAC). Cuadernos de Economía 1985;22(60):175-93.

9. Rosselot J, Mardones RF. Food and nutrition policies: the case of Chile (1925-1985). Report prepared for USAID, Washington, DC, 1986.

10. Junta Nacional de Auxilio Escolar y Becas. Booklet prepared for its 20th anniversary. Santiago, 1984.

11. ODEPLAN. Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Rural. Santiago, 1986.

12. Junta Nacional de Jardines Infantiles, Departamento Técnico Pedagógico. Diseño de un sistema integral de evaluación de los programas de atención JNJI. Santiago, 1986.

13. Peralta V. Informe evaluativo del desarrollo de la educación parvularia en Chile: una proposición inicial. Serie de Documentos de Trabajo, no. 1/86. Santiago: CPU, 1986.

14. Pak N, Vera G, Araya H. Valor nutritivo de la alimentación otorgada por el programa de alimentación al preescolar. Rev Chil Nutr 1984;12(1):41-46.

15. Rebolledo A, Atalah E, Mateluna A. Evaluación del crecimiento y desarrollo de niños en extreme pobreza. Rev Chil Nutr 1986;14(2):103.

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