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SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMME HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS

A hungry child cannot concentrate and perform well in class. A healthy mind and body requires nutritional food. The School Nutrition Programme, started by the Department of Education 16 years ago, has become a huge success. It has improved learner concentration levels, making them more alert. The department encourages all schools in disadvantaged communities to start their own nutrition programmes.

Each province runs its own nutrition programme, while the National Department of Education is responsible for the management of the programme.

The programme helps schools to start their own food and vegetable gardens. This enables schools to grow and use their own fresh vegetables and herbs for their meals.

Wherever the programme has been implemented, hunger has been combated and the overall school attendance has improved.

Food gardens

plant, harvest and clean the ingredients to prepare nutritious meals for learners. More than 7 194 396 learners in 20 943 primary and secondary schools throughout the country are benefiting from this programme.

Schools can now improve and check the quality of all meals. Since the start of the programme, schools have noticed the difference and change in learners' attitudes, performance, attendance and grades have improved.

Thanks to the programme, schools have been able to buy things like kitchen appliances, garden tools and seeds with the help from parents, community members, other government departments, businesses and non-governmental organisations.

Success

Some schools have achieved great success despite many challenges. To encourage more schools to start the programme, the Department of Education rewarded some schools with cash prizes.

They looked at things like:

  • presenting and creating nutritious and healthy meals
  • ensuring learners were fed under supervision
  • record-keeping, staff involvement, participation of interested parties
  • starting and promoting food gardens
  • ensuring clean preparation of food.

The winning schools

Maxonia Primary school in the Western Cape: managed to encourage partnerships with businesses in the community who sponsor supplies when funds are not available. With help from the community, the school could build a new kitchen, which has improved the preparation of meals.

Mogobeng Primary School in Gauteng: they started a green house at the school so learners could eat vegetables throughout the year. The school went the extra mile and employed a full-time dietician who is responsible for improving the meals. They also received a donation to build a dining hall for learners from private company, Langenberg.

Moholeng Primary School in the Northern Cape: they implemented the project with limited resources. The school has managed to maintain a food garden and avoids food wastage by storing excess vegetables.

- Samona Murugan

Since the School Nutrition Programme started, it has grown and improved a great deal. New kitchens have been built, dieticians and health staff have been employed, feeding days have been extended and many schools have tripled the number of children they feed. The department recently visited schools carrying out the programme to see if it is working. The results showed that many schools are now offering hot meals. This has improved learner concentration levels and alertness in class. For more information, call 012 357-3419 or 012 357-3421