SAO PAULO — Some public schools in Brazil’s biggest city will begin augmenting meals for children with pellets made of reprocessed food items that were close to expiration.

Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria said Wednesday he expects several schools to begin using so called “solidary food” pellets by the end of the month.

Human rights groups have criticized the pellets, saying they are degrading. Sao Paulo’s nutrition council also criticized the move.

Earlier this month, Doria announced an agreement with a processing company as part of a hunger-fighting initiative.

The pellets, which resemble large popcorn, are made of dehydrated leftovers. Some are mixed into other foods, like cakes, while others can be eaten directly. Doria did not specify which type would be given to schools.

“There is an authorization to use solidary food in school,” Doria said while accompanied by Roman Catholic Archbishop Odilo Scherer. “It has many proteins, vitamins, minerals as complement to school meals.”

Brazil made great strides at reducing extreme poverty this century. However, the current economic crisis is affecting millions of families.

Sao Paulo officials did not have data on people living in extreme poverty, so it’s unclear how many children Brazil’s richest city expects to benefit from the pellets.

Doria’s actions are being followed with great interest by Brazilians due to his hopes of running for president next year after a meteoric rise to mayor of Sao Paulo this year.

The archbishop said the pellets should not be politicized or linked exclusively to Doria.

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