Over nine million children receive a nutritious meal at school thanks to government’s National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), which was introduced in 1994.
The programme aims to improve children’s ability to learn, by reducing malnutrition and hunger and improving school attendance, especially at disadvantaged schools.
“The programme is critical for furthering learners’ constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education,” explains Deputy Minister of Basic Education Dr Reginah Mhaule.
As a result of the NSNP, more children are attending school on time and more regularly, and their concentration in class has improved.
According to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), learners are taught good eating and lifestyle habits.
Schools are also encouraged to set up their own food gardens to supplement the NSNP menu. Learners, teachers and parents are taught grow their own food.
Thabang Primary School in Bethlehem, Free State, is one of the schools that benefits from the NSNP.
The school recently won the NSNP Best School Award.
The awards celebrate schools’ nutrition programmes by looking at their hygiene and safety practices, nutritious meals, food gardens and nutrition education.
“I am extremely grateful that the school won the award,” says Seyanokeng Sejake, the Thabang Primary principal for the past 24 years.
Thabang Primary School has been running its nutrition programme since 1994. Today, it ensures that its 1 065 learners receive a healthy breakfast daily from a local business.
The food is cooked by unemployed members of the community, who are appointed by the school governing body (SGB).
“Our six employed voluntary food handlers (VFH) make the food provided by the Department of Basic Education through the allocation of funds to the school,” says Sejake.
They VFHs each receive a stipend for preparing the food.
Thabang Primary School took top honours at the awards due to the hard work and commitment of its SGB, management team and functional NSNP Committee, says Sejake.
“Punctuality is the order of the day. We don’t allow absenteeism, without a valid reason, and we have no dropouts. Our learners’ concentration and general performance have also improved,” she adds.
As the prize for winning the award is a state-of-the-art kitchen built by the Tiger Brands Foundation, the school’s nutrition programme is set to become even better.
The school also ensures that there are enough food supplies which are managed properly, to ensure there is always food for the programme.
“For example, we have a food garden that supplies vegetables to supplement the NSNP allocation,” explains Sejake.
In the Best Schools category, Grootdrink Intermediate, in the Mgcawu District in the Northern Cape, took second place and Aaron Gqedu Primary School, in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, came third.
They will receive kitchen equipment from the Department of Basic Education.
The Best District award was won by Umzinyathi (KwaZulu-Natal). The ZF Mgcawu District (Northern Cape) came second and Metro North (Western Cape) came third. Each district won office and computer equipment.
In 2020/21, the NSNP provided meals to children at 21 189 schools.