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Pulitzer Center Update February 16, 2016

This Week: Food for All


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Brazil’s school feeding program feeds 45 million children. Besides fighting hunger, it is also...

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Brazil's National School Feeding Program, enshrined in the country's constitution, feeds every student enrolled in the public school network. That's about 42 million students each day, reports Pulitzer Center Grantee Rhitu Chatterjee in her series of radio reports for PRI's The World.

A 2009 law requires that 30 percent of the ingredients for school meals be sourced from local family farms. By doing this, says Rhitu, Brazil's government not only provides school kids with healthy food, it also helps some four million of the country's small farmers and promotes rural development.

According to Rhitu, "the program has become an example for other developing countries that are also trying to boost local agriculture while providing food and nutrition security to students in poor communities."

If you are a teacher, and you would like to use Rhitu's reporting in your classroom, click here for a lesson designed by our education team. Or you can use the Lesson Builder to design your own, drawing from our growing archive of reporting on health care and many other topics. It's easy to use—and it's free. Sign up for our Education newsletter to receive weekly lesson plans that use international reporting to communicate global issues.


In the 1960s, health officials started noticing that vaccines against deadly and debilitating diseases were less effective in low-income countries than in industrialized countries. The oral polio vaccine, for instance, eliminated the disease in North America and Europe, but was far less effective in Asia and Africa.

Pulitzer Center grantee Carina Storrs explores the factors that continue to cause poor vaccine efficiency and interventions to improve it. In her story for Health Affairs, she reports from Bangladesh that one likely culprit is environmental enteropathy, a common condition in areas with poor sanitation that affects absorption and immune function in the gut.

"Trials are underway at several sites…to evaluate whether programs that provide soap and clean water could reduce environmental enteropathy," says Carina. "Other studies are testing less intensive solutions such as probiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs."


In a follow-up to his behind-the-scenes story for The Atlantic on a failed attempt to unseat The Gambia's dictator, Pulitzer Center grantee Stuart Reid considers why so many tyrants who have spent time in the West fail to absorb any semblance of democratic values.

Stuart notes that "Bashar al-Assad butchers Syrians despite having lived in London. Whatever Western values Kim Jong Un picked up at boarding school in Switzerland haven't kept him from perpetuating North Korea's totalitarian state. And, as I discovered while reporting on The Gambia, the authoritarian leader of this tiny West African country has a soft spot for the United States."

While these tyrants enjoy absolute power in their home country, what they truly aspire to is not Western values, but an upper-class Western lifestyle, says Stuart. "This appeal forms part of the United States's considerable soft power, an aesthetic equivalent to the U.S. dollar's role as the world's primary reserve currency. And just as the dollar's unrivaled status gives Washington the ability to force foreign banks to comply with its economic sanctions, the United States's cultural cachet gives it considerable leverage over dictators seeking access."

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor


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