Schools closed, Veracruz spent on school breakfasts… and they were spoiled

Despite the fact that Veracruz schools were closed for two years due to the pandemic, the State DIF bought school breakfasts for more than a billion pesos that it could not deliver, so some were spoiled, ended up as animal feed, they were resold on social networks or were delivered already expired.

An investigation of Political Animal revealed that the entity, together with Sinaloa and San Luis Potosí, invested more than 1,770 million pesos in school breakfasts during 2020 and 2021, despite the fact that the schools were empty.

The investigation refers that the contracts that were signed by Veracruz were the highest of the three entities, since in the two years of the pandemic it acquired 209.8 million products for an amount of 1,366.9 million pesos.

In total, the DIF of the three states spent 1,770 million pesos in the purchase of school breakfasts with the schools closed, so the distribution process was affected and in some cases the teachers and parents resolved it with their own media but in others, the items never reached the children or they received expired.

Others were delivered to beneficiaries of different programs, were sold on social networks and even ended up as animal feed.

Political Animal points out that, after reviewing hundreds of contracts, it was found that the three States bought 336 million items for school breakfasts such as milk cartons, cookies, dehydrated fruit, cereal bars, which make up “cold breakfasts”; and tuna, sardines, flour, grains, and even fruits, meats, and vegetables for “hot breakfasts” served in school cafeterias.

However, neither the Federal nor the State Governments provided for a mechanism that would ensure the distribution of food while schools were closed, despite the fact that this was the final point of delivery, nor for the program to meet the objective of providing food to basic education students, primarily in rural and highly marginalized areas.

The journalistic investigation highlights that before the pandemic, school breakfasts were delivered by the supplier in the DIF state warehouses.

From there they were distributed to the schools where the directors and the parents’ associations were in charge of receiving them, checking that their content was complete and in good condition, signing the minutes, distributing them and collecting the 50 cents that the parents had to pay for each breakfast and deliver them to the DIF.

However, during the pandemic, millions of items were delivered to the DIF’s municipal warehouses, but from that point on, the communities had to resolve the distribution with their own means and the authority lost control of who received the items.

The report cites the testimonies of teachers and directors of schools in Veracruz, specifically in Nogales, who in exchange for anonymity, indicated, among other things, that the parents had to cooperate to rent a freight for 800 pesos but when they picked up the products , the powdered milk —which is part of hot school breakfasts— was out of date.

That is why they decided to use it as feed for pigs.

“Of 46 boxes of powdered milk that they gave us (in 2020), there were about 16 pieces that were already expired. It was mentioned to the parents that those bags of milk were out of date, so there was one other parent who has animals, who said that they could use it that way; and then they were granted. They told us that it was very useful for pigs and also for farm animals and there were several fathers who took them that way, ”he explained.

Since there was no strategy to specifically serve the target population of the program, that is, the students, the state DIF decided to violate the law and hand them over to beneficiaries of other programs.

Thus, on March 24, 2020, the director of Attention to the Vulnerable Population, Nytzia Guerrero, sent an official letter to the directors of the municipal DIF so that school breakfasts were distributed to beneficiaries of the program for the elderly and people with disabilities, contravening the Rules of Operation and without the authorities supervising that the distribution of assets was neutral and without proselytizing purposes, especially when the 2020-2021 local electoral process was underway.

In another official letter from April 2020, Governor Cuitláhuac García requested through the director of the DIF, Rebeca Quintanar, to ask the deputies of MORENA to “support” the distribution of food programs in their electoral districts, which ended in accusations before the Local Electoral Public Organism (OPLE).

The investigation adds that, in June 2019, at the beginning of the Cuitláhuac García government, the State DIF signed a framework agreement through which it agreed that, by direct award, DICONSA would be its main supplier of products for various food programs.

Based on said agreement, in June and July 2020 —during the first peak of the pandemic— two contracts were signed for the purchase of hot and cold breakfasts, AD-009.20 and AD-014.20, respectively, for an amount of 702.5 million pesos.

In April 2021, two new contracts were signed, AD-05.21 and AD-07.21, for an amount of 664.2 million pesos. Months after the signing of these contracts, a hybrid model of return to face-to-face classes was implemented in the entity.

The cold breakfasts contained a 250 ml milk carton. and supplements such as cereals, fruits and cookies. The hot modality included chicken, beef and pork, vegetables such as green beans, carrots, peas and nopales, as well as pasta, flour, rice, beans, canned tuna and sardines, oil, powdered milk and oatmeal.

It is noted that, in total, during the two years of the pandemic, the Government of Veracruz acquired 209.8 million units of these products as part of the program that was to benefit basic education students, primarily from marginalized areas, in accordance with the Operation Rules published in the Official State Gazette.

This mandate was not fulfilled in all schools, since municipal authorities detected the sale of school breakfast packages through social networks, for which the Xalapa DIF issued a warrant in August 2020 “to report the incorrect use of this benefit that should reach girls and boys”.

In the “Carlos Pereyra” preschool, in the municipality of Ixtacozquitlán, teachers denounced that the perishable products that make up the breakfasts (fruits, vegetables and meats) arrived broken, so they had to throw them away.