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Urban agriculture and composting providing food security in public schools

We are developing a method of composting organic waste from local restaurants to nurture a school's vegetable garden

Photo of Marina Teles
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Eccaplan Consultoria em Sustentabilidade

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Escola Estadual Fernão Dias Paes - school Coletivo Pinheiros - NGO

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

São Paulo

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

São Paulo, a city in Brazil, has a total area of 968,3248 km²

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Eccaplan is a small company in São Paulo and almost all our clients’ head offices are also here. We are located on a startup incubator at the University of São Paulo. The company was created by Fernando Beltrame, a food engineer with a goal to create a prosper relation between institutions and the environment. 

The company reaches that by rationalizing processes, reducing waste and proving decent work to recyclers. São Paulo has one of the biggest uniquality rates if compared to other big cities and we couldn’t ignore the social vulnerability that surrounds us.

Since more than half of our waste is organic and one of the best solutions is turning it into fertilizer, we keep a public vegetable garden at the Vila Nilo neighbourhood, a very poor community with lack of structure and we have been observing the potential that food production can generate in such place. That was our first project, now we are developing a system at a public school and could notice that in a learning environment that system can make even bigger transformations. 

In a partnership with Coletivo Pinheiros (an association of the neighborhood's merchants) we developed a crowdfunding campaign to make a local composting system at the Fernão Dias Paes public school to produce material for the vegetable garden. Students from public schools, historically have a social vulnerability and have very few opportunities.  We currently have two young apprentices in our team that compost the organic fraction from local restaurants. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

São Paulo is the biggest city in Brazil and one of the most populated cities of the world. Is the richest city of the country with the highest GNP. However all that wealth is unfairly distributed. Indicators from the São Paulo’s map of inequality elaborated by the NGO Rede Nossa São Paulo shows that for example life expectancy can variate 23 years from a rich centered neighbourhood and a poor peripheral one. 

The city’s fresh food supply come for rural areas. Our agricultural is known for the large scale and the high use of pesticides. According to the brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology agriculture is responsible for 22% of gas emissions in Brazil. 

Since São Paulo is huge and describing every cultural, social economic and environmental aspects would be impossible, we chose to focus on the two subject of our vision: education and waste production. 

One of the major problems of the city is the huge waste production added to the low recycling and composting rates. Everyday 20 tons of waste are disposed in the streets of São Paulo but only 7% is recycled and less than 1% is composted.  The selective collect doesn't reach all regions of the city and few citizens use that service to dispose their recyclable material. There is no public collection for the organic fraction (there is a program to compost organic waste of street markets but also reaches just some regions).

In 2018 São Paulo’s 1.383 public high schools had 420.071 students according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Unfortunately almost 40% of these students don't graduate and the main reason for that is lack of financial conditions. Many students of the public educational system have to work to support their families and end up dropping out of school because of the difficulty to reconcile both activities. 

Providing lunch for the students is fundamental for changing that scenario or to at least avoid it from getting worse. In some cases, that's the only meal for the students from families with the lower incomes. There were some efforts to improve the quality of the food but it is still rare to see fresh ingredients on the students’ plates. 

Our pilot project is happening at the Fernão Dias Paes School. We are dealing with those problems related to meals with bad quality and school dropouts because of financial reasons. We are trying to minimize the social vulnerability of students that are participating of the project. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Brazil is on the top 10 food wasters of the world, reaching amazing 41 thousand tons of food thrown away every year  according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). All of that waste represent not only financial losses but also resources (water, nutrients, soil, labour…)  that could be used in a more rational way.

Brazilian food system is filled with wastage in all parts of its process but the main problem is transport and storage. That is a consequence of the country’s lack of infrastructure added to the big distance between the areas of production and consumption. The brazilian consumer is also very demanding when it comes to the appearance of fruits and vegetables, wasting food that can be consumed with no risks.

The amount of food that is wasted by producers and consumers ends up in landfills. The public waste collection system doesn't have the structure and knowhow to make composting sites and recover those nutrients. And food is not only material wasted: leafs and pruning are also landed.

At the same time we waste a lot of fresh food and kids and teenagers are eating school lunch of very bad quality. When we analyze the school’s meals we see mainly canned food and almost no fresh ingredients. The government supply system must buy big amounts of food and doesn't have enough structure to provide fresh ingredients.

Brazil has the 7th worse gini index and its getting worse with time. According to Unicef, six out of ten kids live in poverty in Brazil. Hunger is algo increasing and starvation that was overcame has made some victims in the last year. With time these problems are not going to get any better since is not a government and cooperative priority.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

While we are facing an impressive amount of food going to trash, instead we are trying to make food out of trash.

It all starts with environmental education giving the students the chance to understand current problems and some solutions. Some of them will have professional experience and some skills developed at recovering nutrients in waste and food production. 

In addition, the decentralized waste management will help the government to reduce the amount of landed trash responsible for 12% of gas emissions in Brazil according to the Ministry of Environment (MMA, 2007). The carbon storage that is been done on the local composting system automatically reduce some of these emissions.

The development of a method of recovering the organic fraction of local restaurants waste in a school composting bed maintained by students will allow food production. Using local resources students are becoming protagonists of their food security by increasing the quality of their meals.

The projects have immediate positive impacts. Owners and workers from local restaurantes are separating the organic fraction of their waste. The perception of how much they through away give them the possibility to rethink their internal material flow. Also, students have the opportunity to have a practical experience and are developing skills with composting and planting food.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

We are watching a transformation happening on the Fernão Dias Paes school and at the Pinheiros neighborhood. 

There used to be a conflict between residents and students and that conflict was based on inequality. Young residents in Pinheiros go to private schools so students that go to Fernão Dias Paes come from humble families and live in poor neighborhoods. 

That distance is getting shorter and with the project students and residents are getting to know each other and getting rid of some mutual preconceptions.

The environmental conscience in Pinheiros is constantly increasing and more and more establishments are looking for sustainable solutions for their waste problem using it as a resource for public school food production.

The students hired to work on the project are getting to know composting technologies to produce fertilizer and how to aplicate those agricultural inputs on the schools organic vegetable garden. These students are going to reduce theirs social vulnerability with the skills developed at the internship and will be more prepared for the competition on the job market (there are more than 12 million people currently unemployed in Brazil).

The local production of inputs and consequently food production will guarantee the right of wealthy organic alimentation for students at Fernão Dias Paes School. The project will assure food and nutrition security at the school. Hopefully the project will go on changing the relationship between students and their eating habits.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

We hope that in thirty years the project will go on and by that time we will boost the career of more than a hundred school interns and assure food and nutrition security for more than ten thousand students only at Fernão Dias Paes.

The Fernão Dias Paes school will be a productive place, responsible for its own organic food production. Students will watch the waste cycle closure and as a result they will have nutritious food available. The local vegetable garden will eliminate food losses in the school since the harvest will be done only when necessary. The project will allow teenagens to have hearthy meals regardless of the government purchasing system. 

Pinheiros will become a neighbourhood of circular economy with a plan of local solutions for waste management. Closing  the circle of organic waste locally, as well as the recovery of nutritions, will lead other solutions for recyclable material for exemple. It will be a good example of a sustainable neighborhood in Brazil, which is extremely rare. The connection between the neighbourhood and the school will be more harmonious.

The huge transformation will be the young citizens that will become constience adults that will have learned  how not to waste food and recover nutrients organic waste. That experience of watching food growing at the school yard thanks to the right destination of organic waste might encourage them to spread that idea. Students will become contience citizens, responsible for their waste and more empowered on food production. For the interns, the professional experience will help them to open doors at the agricultural and waste management markets. 

We hope that by 2050 we reach more neighborhoods specialty at the suburbs where all these problems described before are more intense. We hope that our project at Vila Nilo can also be integrated with the local school and have a more deep bond with the community.

With students from public schools eating healthy organic meals, raising their family incomes and becoming professionals in prosper and tecnicological markets we hope to reduce the unfair inequality that keeps us from developing regenerative solutions. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Startup Incubator

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Zsofia Pasztor

I love this! We are an organization creating and running edible school gardens in NW USA. I visited Sao Paolo area 4 y ago and love the region. If you think I can help you through sharing our experience with you, let me know.