Feeding healthy habits

Thousands of excited learners turned out for a day of soccer and netball clinics, dance aerobics, hoola-hoop showdowns and more at the culmination of this year’s National Nutrition Week at the Modimolle Primary School in the Waterberg District of Limpopo.

The department of basic education (DBE) partnered with two food manufacturing brands, Nestlé South Africa and Tiger Brands, for the event.

The week is a national government initiative celebrated every October as part of the United Nations’s World Food Day, and highlights a range of issues such as food security, supply and distribution. National Nutrition Week fits in well with the department’s own National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), which this year was celebrated under the theme: “Healthy Eating For a Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body”.

Three primary schools, namely Modimolle, Dagbreek and Maokeng, held a joint celebration where an estimated 4 000 learners — all kitted out in the DBE’s branded white caps — joined in a variety of fun-packed activities. Volunteer professional instructors and teachers were on hand to provide facilitation. The enthusiastic learners also took part in the “How to Make a Nutritious Snack” competition, dialogues and information-sharing sessions on good nutrition.

The primary aim of the school nutrition programme is to “promote healthy lifestyles through advocacy initiatives on good nutrition to learners, school food handlers, teachers and parents in order to emphasise nutrition knowledge, better food choices and the importance of physical activity”.

Positive outcomes
Parents and teachers across the country have hailed the food scheme initiative, saying it has led to positive outcomes such as high learner attendance and improved concentration and performance levels.

Neo Rakwena, director of NSNP, encouraged learners to start their own vegetable gardens at home.

She was upbeat about how the proceedings went on the day. “Overall I think we had a successful event and this is because we had our business partners involved from the planning stages until the day of the event.”

So big was the turnout that event organisers and teachers had their hands full trying to control the excited learners. Rakwena said this was noted and that in future they would try to organise themselves better to avoid a potential stampede.

Spokespeople from both Nestlé and Tiger Brands emphasised the importance of inculcating a culture of healthy eating habits in children at a young age.

“We believe that the steps we take today will determine the future of our society and environment. It is precisely for this reason that we regard our participation in the nourishment of the young minds as a critical component in creating a better future for our children,” said Bongiwe Njobe of Tiger Brands.

Her counterpart at Nestlé, Ravi Pillay said, “We have committed ourselves to contributing towards a healthier nation and we believe that starting with educating children and learners will go a long way towards entrenching the healthy lifestyle message.”

Nestlé welcomed the partnership with the DBE, added Pillay, as it is only through “a public private partnership that we can enhance the quality of life of South Africans”.

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Thabo Mohlala
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