Across the four regions we work in – Uganda, South Africa, Thailand and Australia – the needs of the children we support are very different. What doesn’t change is the fact that, no matter where they live, kids can’t learn on empty tummies!
The importance of a nutritious diet for a healthy and active life, both at home and in the classroom, can’t be overstated.
“Well-nourished children are better able to grow and learn, to participate in and contribute to their communities, and to be resilient in the face of disease, disasters, and other global crises” (UNICEF).
The School Feeding Program organised by Cotton On Foundation in Thailand, Uganda and South Africa varies based on locally available resources and the needs of the community.
In our supported schools in Uganda, providing healthy and nutritious meals to students is an integral part of our programs. Two meals per day are provided to students attending Cotton On Foundation supported schools, including breakfast and lunch.
Morning meals are a type of maize flour porridge prepared with water or milk, and afternoon meals are made of beans and posho – a filling, solid paste common in Uganda, also made from maize flour.
We’ve recently switched to using a fortified maize containing vitamins A1, B3 and 6, and zinc and folic acid. This change has been made with the micro-nutrition of children in Cotton On Foundation supported schools in mind.
In addition to their daily meals, every term, students have an opportunity to learn more actively about nutrition: This happens on a Nutrition Day when selected parents who are trained on good nutrition practices come to the schools to teach the kids and prepare a balanced meal with a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs.
Along with nutritious food, clean water is incredibly important to the health and education of our supported students! Water tanks installed at each school allow students to keep hydrated throughout the day.
At Bwe K’Lar and Hsa Thoo Lei Learning Centers, children are provided with one lunchtime meal per day at school, made up of rice with a meat or vegetable based curry or soup.
18 different types of vegetables and fruit trees are planted on the grounds at Bwe K’Lar, including chilli, papaya, lime, pumpkin, jackfruit, celery and mango. These plants are looked after by both students and teachers.
Once again, clean water is a priority for our programs in Thailand. Bwe K’Lar has four 3,000 litre water tanks, filtered to attached drinking fountains. Hsa Thoo Lei also has a filtered water system, attached to a water pipeline.
In South Africa, the government-run National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) aims to enhance the learning capacity of learners through the provision of a healthy meal at school. At Ethekwini Primary School, the program has shown to improve punctuality, regular school attendance, concentration and the general wellbeing of learners.
Children attending Ethekwini are provided with one lunchtime meal at school, made up of rice with vegetables and meat or fish.
Ethekwini Primary School has a small vegetable garden that was designed and built by students during the school build. The maintenance assistants at the school tend these gardens and have planted vegetables such as cauliflower, spinach and capsicum.
We are also refining plans for the build of further vegetable gardens:
- A test garden for Nutrition Mission Delegates to learn in through practical lessons and application
- Vegetable gardens for the learners to engage with and manage
- High yield gardens that will supplement the National School Nutrition Programme (Government feeding scheme) and our Nutrition Mission Program.
Plans for a subsistence farming model for our Nutrition Mission Program are also underway, set to be rolled out next month!
Once learners and educators have settled into their new normal, Nutrition Mission workshops will kick off again for learners to participate in..
Children have access to clean, municipal supplied water throughout the school grounds. This is used for drinking, food prep and hand washing.
While schools remain closed or slowly start to reopen, in the regions we work in, the provision of healthy nutritious meals remains a priority.
In South Africa, take-home packs for Ethekwini and Dr JL Dube students who need support are provided, with weekly packs of fruit, vegetables and maize meal.
In Uganda, take-home food packs were delivered to 810 MVC families (Most Vulnerable Children), which consisted of maize, beans and salt. This support continues to those who need it and more recently, seeds have been given out to families identified as needing ongoing support. These seeds include eggplant, potatoes, beans and maize.
After assessing the community needs, we’re happy to report that take-home food packs were not required in Mae Sot, Thailand.