The Paraguayan Congress has approved the ‘Zero Hunger in Schools’ bill, presented by the executive to alleviate this serious social problem, which has led to criticism and protests from university students.

The law was approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on 20 March and is expected to be signed into law soon by Paraguayan President Santiago Peña, who has stated that the main objective of the law is “that no child should go hungry, that this public policy will help us to eradicate extreme and total poverty in Paraguay very quickly”.

Opposing views

However, the ‘Zero Hunger’ law has been met with opposition from university students, as it would change the way the school feeding program is funded and create a more centralized management mechanism. Students have been demonstrating against it since last Thursday.

The dissatisfaction of the student community stems from their concern over the lack of guarantees for the funding of the Arancel Cero, which provides free university education, and the cancellation of projects supported by Fonacide, which were abolished with the approval of the new law.

The law reformed and expanded Law 5210/2014, which established the decentralized management of school meals by governorates and municipalities, with funding from the National Fund for Public Investment and Development (Fonacide), whose resources come from royalties on the transfer of energy from the Itaipú hydroelectric plant to Brazil.

The new law repeals the Fonacide Act, which, in addition to paying for students’ meals, financed projects to improve educational centers or free tuition in higher education.

From now on, 80% of the funds from compensation payments and the transfer of energy from Itaipu will go directly to the National School Feeding Fund (Fonae), created by the Zero Hunger Law, while the remaining 20% will come from the national budget.