- NUTRITIONAL WELLNESS
- KNOW YOUR SERVING
- BODY SMART
- MEAL PLANNING
- TIPS & TRICKS
- UNDERSTANDING FOOD LABELS
Nestlé releases Tuck-shop Truths study ahead of National School Health Week
National School Health Week, a Government initiative, running from 4 to 8 March, aims to highlight the importance of health in our schools. The focus for the week is on health screening however it is vital to keep in mind the importance of balanced nutrition and how it relates to our children’s overall health.
Recently, Nestlé South Africa commissioned a study amongst numerous upper and lower income groups at Model C primary schools throughout South Africa on the nutritional offering in school tuck-shops. The study aimed to identify which products are being sold and are being requested by children, as well as opinions from tuck-shop operators and parents on pupils’ tuck-shop purchases and eating habits at school.
The results showed that both learners and parents are requesting more balanced food to be stocked at tuck-shops. This included yoghurt, cheese, fresh milk, bottled water, biltong, nuts, brown or whole-wheat rolls and sandwiches.
“While it’s great to see that pupils are requesting more balanced alternatives, it’s worrying to see that in many cases the tuck-shops aren’t able to make these available to them. Subsequently, this encourages children to consume food and drinks that are less recommended,??? says Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa.
“When reviewing the data, it was interesting to compare the tuck-shop offerings at former Model C schools in the upper and lower income groups,??? she continued.
Khan highlights some of the findings and conclusions from the study below:
Beverage choices are certainly a lot healthier at upper LSM schools. While bottled water is the only beverage type that is stocked at all upper LSM schools surveyed, only 44% of lower LSM school tuck-shops offer this to pupils. Fruit juice is equally popular at upper LSM schools with 82% of their tuck-shops stocking these drinks. Only 63% of lower LSM schools offer fruit juice, preferring to sell fizzy drinks. Overall, there is less variety of beverages offered at lower LSM schools.
A clear finding is that children’s dairy needs are not being met and that more dairy items should be made available. It was rather worrisome to see that none of the upper LSM schools and only 10% of lower LSM schools surveyed, sell fresh milk, despite it being requested by upper income group learners (at 40%).
Similarly, cheese is only supplied at 8% of upper LSM schools and at none of the lower LSM schools surveyed, yet it is requested (also at 40%).
While 70% of lower income group tuck-shops sell yoghurt, only 42% of those at upper LSM schools offer this, despite it being requested.
Although custard is the most requested dairy item (80% at upper LSM schools and 20% at lower LSM schools), this product is not stocked at any of the schools surveyed.
Following this trend, a relatively low percentage of both schools (29% at upper LSM schools and 19% at lower LSM schools) offer fresh fruit.
While chips, popcorn, chocolate, lollipops/suckers and sweets are the most commonly sold snack items at both income group schools, it was interesting to see that lower LSM schools offer more options like dried fruit, popcorn, nuts, fresh fruit and pretzels than the upper LSM schools.
The survey revealed that wholesome meals are a luxury with only a small percentage of lower LSM schools (33%) offering any form of meals – limited to curry and rice, homemade pie, pizza, chicken nuggets and chips and soup while at least 51% of upper LSM schools provide a choice of these options, as well as a range of pasta dishes, salad and more.
Some of the tuck-shop operators’ suggestions given for improving the children’s nutrition and eating habits during school are as follows:
- Sell freshly cooked food such as nutritional meals;
- Prepare food in a fun way, for example, offering fruit salad instead of whole fruit;
- Invite a nutritionist to the school to make pupils more aware of the importance of eating balanced meals.
The survey also found that despite parents recognising that tuck-shops sell unbalanced food, and requesting for a variety of balanced alternatives, overall parents seem complacent with 51% saying they are satisfied with the nutrition of the tuck-shop offering and 34% being indifferent.
Furthermore, when asked what can be changed about the tuck-shop offering, a rather low 51% agreed that they should have a variety of food options and 24% said that no improvements are necessary.
“Former Model C school tuck-shops need to start listening to children’s requests for more balanced healthy food and become more focused on their nutritional needs – especially when it comes to their dairy intake,??? says Khan.
A previous study conducted by Nestlé South Africa showed a strong correlation between parents’ mindsets over their own eating habits and attitudes toward good nutrition and where they fall short in terms of the proper nutrition for their children. “Our Rainbow Nation Health Monitor study revealed that parents pass on their bad eating habits to their children,??? says Khan.
Parents need to be more involved in what their children are eating so that they can teach them how to make the right food choices. “Repeated exposure to a wide variety of foods and good eating behaviours modelled by parents will help to modify your child’s food preferences,??? she says.
Parents need to realise that the nutrition their children receive now is an investment for their future health. “We cannot stress the importance of good nutrition for children enough and the need for good nutrition for South Africa’s children remains high,??? concludes Khan.
A total of 17 upper LSM and 16 lower LSM former Model C primary schools throughout South Africa were audited through stock assessment and through interviews to collect the opinions of the operators. The audit happened in winter, which can account for particular food stocked and consumed.
249 online interviews were conducted with mothers, located nationally, with children aged between 6 – 12 years who attend an upper LSM former Model C primary school. The mothers had access to the internet.
142 face-to-face interviews were conducted with mothers whose children attend lower LSM former Model C primary schools nationally.
The study was conducted by Bateleur Brand Planning on behalf of Nestlé South Africa. For more details, please contact Gordon Hooper on 011 460 5100 or 083 212 2739. Please visit: www.bateleurbp.co.za for more information.