Vaso de Leche Committees are ongoing committees, established in 1985, as a nutrition program for pregnant and lactating women that provides daily portions of milk and staple foods in Peru. .
Problems and Purpose
The Vaso de Leche Committees were formed in 1985 to combat malnutrition and reduce infant morbidity and mortality. One study revealed that approximately 43% of children (under 6) in Peru were malnourished in 1984.  A leftist government aimed to combat this by providing milk/milk substitutes and other food commodities to families—specifically low income households and/or households with low nutritional status. 
Background History and Context
A Latin American economic crisis in the 1970’s-80’s affected the government budgets in Peru, resulting in constant decreases as early as 1968.  By 1978, the health sector was reduced to just 4% of the country’s’ budget.  In addition to increased costs in all facets of life, for Peruvian families the “basic family basket”, i.e. cost of average food and drink costs increased 136% by 1983. 
During this period, the population growth of the middle class stagnated,while the poorest population segments of society grew at the fastest rate (6.2%) in the country.  In addition to poverty, malnutrition began to increase and health concerns related to sanitation, living conditions, air pollution and water sources left this population particularly at risk. 
Vaso de Leche Committees were formed to increase access to improved nutrition sources (i.e. milk and food commodities) as well as encourage female participation in the process.  The Peruvian government had taken note that “income or goods that poor women receive...have [the] family as final recipient, since these become food, health or education to the children.”  In addition, that women routinely spend more on family needs -- as much as 95% while men spend just 50%. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Funding of the program is organized by the central government to municipal governments which “are required” to have an administrative committee composed of elected representatives of beneficiaries, the mayor, another local official, and a representative from the ministry of health.” 
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Committee leaders, operations and standards for the Vaso de Leche committees vary by location. The Municipality of Jima, for example, chose to appoint a consejal to be responsible for the operations of the program in their community. 
The Vaso de Leche committees are elected democratically and might have a “president, vice-president, general secretary and treasurer, and special secretaries for organization, economic affairs , health, public relations and information”.  These elected members then meet with the consejal to organize their functions and plan distributions to their communities.
Methods and Tools Used
Members of the Vaso de Leche use committee meetings to select the distribution methods and beneficiaries of the program. The general standard is to target families that are poor or with low nutrition; however the needs, size and distribution of resources varies by municipality. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Vaso de Leche committees started in Lima, Peru as a pilot project in 1985. Due to economic crises from the 1980’s to 1990’s the program expanded to reach nearly 50% of households with children aged 3 to 11. 
In the first year, more than 100,000 women were taking leadership roles and responsibilities in Vaso de Leche committees.  Without bureaucracy or administration costs to consider, they organised more than 7,500 committees and involved more than 1,300 neighborhoods.  The Vaso de Leche mothers’ committee in each community is group that decides the beneficiaries, agenda items, and commodities to be distributed, and times the deliveries.
In addition to forming local leaders, the program has provided more than “one million children and breast-feeding women with their daily consumption of milk.”  Further, these committees have increased awareness of the importance of nutrition for mothers and the general public. 
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Vaso de Leche committees have expanded wildly and continue to operate today. While they have groomed groups of women leaders and developed effective systems for distributing commodities to the poor, their success in improving nutrition remains unproven.  Of the households who receive milk from the program, approximately 80% continue to purchase additional milk products for their household. 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Vaso de Leche program created a system for women to directly impact families, especially women and children in their community. It has grown to large-scale governmental levels while also empowering local governments to strengthen their positions in the communities they serve. 
One hypothesis is that milk is simply not the most effective food source for improving nutrition.  While milk can improve child growth this may not be a good determinant of increased nutrition.  Distribution and coverage of the Vaso de Leche program seems to be effective but perhaps too expansive. One study revealed that 64% of the most malnourished children live in households that are Vaso de Leche recipients but that also, approximately 30% of the most nourished households are also recipients.  Thus, opportunity remains for a more targeted approach.In addition to distribution and coverage, sufficiency is another question of effectiveness for the Vaso de Leche program.
 Stifel, D. and Alderman, H. (2006). The "glass of milk" subsidy program and malnutrition in peru.
 The World Bank Economic Review, 20(3), 421–448. doi: doi:10.1093/wber/lhl002
 Quinteros Melendez, G. (1988). “Do not give me a fish, teach me how to fish” good municipal government and community participation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from https://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/68789/39919593-MIT.pdf?sequence=2
The first version of this case entry was written by Lydia Grate, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.