Nutrition programme delivering the goods

A portrait photo of Navisha Bechan-Sewkuran from Mondelēz International who is committed to inspiring consumers to snack mindfully

NAVISHA BECHAN-SEWKURAN Although Mondelēz International is a leading producer of snacks, it is committed to inspiring consumers to snack mindfully

17th March 2023


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South African learners and schools continue to benefit measurably, meaningfully as a result of holistic health and nutrition initiative the Health in Action (HIA) programme.

The number of children consuming vegetables on a daily basis in 342 schools in at-risk communities in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape has increased by 494% between 2019 and 2022.

This development can be attributed to the HIA programme implemented by nongovernmental organisation Inmed South Africa, and multinational snack food manufacturer Mondelēz’s International Foundation.

The Mondelēz International Foundation supports programmes designed to promote healthy lifestyles in at-risk communities around the world through nutrition education, active play, and access to fresh food.

The HIA programme, which was rolled out in two phases – namely Phase I between 2015 and 2019 and Phase II from 2019 to 2022 – is focused on reducing obesity rates and promoting healthy lifestyles for children.

It combines participatory education in nutrition and healthy choices, with access to fresh food through school gardens and regular break-time fitness activities, which are led by Inmed-trained unemployed youth.

The second phase of the programme focused on spreading the programme’s reach and impact to develop a sustainable healthy lifestyle culture in schools and their surrounding communities.

As the implementing partner, Inmed South Africa – an affiliate of Inmed Partnerships for Children – has vast knowledge and experience in developing programmes focusing on challenges that are unique to South Africa.

Its local expertise in health and social enterprises ensured that the programme’s impact was measurable as well as meaningful for the parties involved.

Through its peer-to-peer system, the different schools in the programme were able to communicate and learn from each other, creating an ongoing feedback loop with the opportunity for broader learning among the schools and their learners.

Inmed South Africa programme director Unathi Sihlahla says the second phase of the programme reached about 315 000 children and 6 974 educators in the three provinces.

“When we started this phase of the programme, a mere 16% of children reported eating vegetables every day,” he says, adding “now, just two years later, this figure has increased to an astonishing 95%.”

This is a significant statistic, especially in light of a South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which reported a combined overweight and obesity prevalence of 13.5% in children aged between 6 and 14 years.

This is markedly higher than the 10% prevalence in school children globally.

According to the World Health Organization, the basic cause of obesity and overweightness is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.

This is as a result of an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars, combined with a decrease in physical activity.

The success of the second phase of the HIA programme is particularly notable because it was rolled out in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to eating more vegetables, more children are taking part in 30 minutes of physical exercise, or more, on a daily basis – up from 61% in 2020 to 90% in 2022.

The report indicates that participants’ knowledge of nutrition and healthy lifestyles also increased by 124% from 33% in 2020 to 74% in 2022.

All of this has led to an improved body mass index (BMI) – that is children in the ‘normal’ BMI range – from 73% in 2020 to 78% in 2022.

Mondelēz International sub-Saharan Africa corporate & government affairs lead Navisha Bechan-Sewkuran says that while Mondelēz International is a leading producer of snacks, it is committed to inspiring consumers to snack mindfully, with the emphasis on savouring their snacks without overindulging.

“Our purpose is to empower people to snack right by offering the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way,” she adds.

Further the HIA programme is close to its heart, because it understands how important nutrition education is for children.

“Our seven-year partnership with Inmed has been highly rewarding and we salute the 227 Mondelēz volunteers, who put their hands up for the second phase of the project, contributing 669 hours of their time to make the initiative a success,” she concludes.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features




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