Ecuador: Banco de Alimentos Diakonía’s Breakfasts for Better Days
In Ecuador, as of 2019, 23.3 percent of the population was moderately or severely food insecure and the prevalence of undernourishment was 7.9 percent. Rates of stunting among children under age five are alarmingly high—23.9 percent—which is more than three times the rate of South America as a whole and nearly 9 percentage points higher than the next rated country on the continent. In Guayaquil, where Banco de Alimentos Diakonía (Diakonía) is located, 20 percent of children in the city suffer from malnutrition. In 2019 Diakonía, the first fully established food bank in Ecuador, worked with 82 beneficiary organizations to reach more than 30,000 people in its service area, about 80 percent of whom are children, and offered a variety of programs, including a medicine bank, fruit and vegetable rescue program, and community garden promotion.
In 2019 Diakonía worked with three schools to administer the Breakfasts for Better Days Program, which provided 427 preprimary and primary school children, including 23 disabled children in inclusive classrooms, with a balanced breakfast of cereal, a dairy drink, and fruit for 24 weeks. The program also included a nutrition education and food management and preparation component for the mothers of the children. Assessments of the children helped to recognize unusual patterns of allergies and intolerances among the population served and found the program to be successful in addressing the participants’ nutrition status and promoting healthy consumption patterns.
At its inception, this program was unique in Ecuador because it was the first nongovernmental program of its kind to be developed. The program responds quickly to changing circumstances, often providing varied menu options to alleviate boredom, introducing new fruits, instituting clear channels of communication with teachers and school administrators, and reprogramming activities. The program enables food banks to collaborate with new and varied partners and share best practices.
Since March 2020, Guayaquil has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Diakonía has dramatically scaled up its food assistance by increasing the number of beneficiary organizations it supports. It now reaches more than 1 million people, a more than 30-fold increase compared to 2019. While schools are closed, Diakonía distributes emergency food boxes to families with children who previously benefited from the school breakfast program.