The listeriosis outbreak has cast the spotlight on the importance of parents ensuring that the food learners consume at school is safe and healthy.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has pointed out that none of the meat products that are subject to recall because of possible contamination was served as part of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). But it warned parents and school communities to be alert to the fact that these products could be included in lunches that are sold to learners by external food vendors outside of schools or at tuck shops.
“The issue of the quality of food available at schools goes beyond the immediate crisis of possible contamination. Both Departments of Health and Basic Education need to be concerned about the unhealthy nature of a lot of the food sold at schools,” commented HEALA Coordinator Tracey Malawana. “It is often high in sugar, refined starches and preservatives and has little nutritional value. In many cases it puts the child on the road to obesity at a very early age.”
A research report published in the New England Medical Journal (NEMJ) revealed that 1.6 million South African children are considered obese. The escalating weight of youth puts them at greater risk of developing non-communicable diseases, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, later in life.
An evaluation of the (NSNP) programme in 2016 showed that it has great value in alleviating hunger and is appreciated by the children who benefit from it.
Although children from disadvantaged communities benefit daily from the NSNP, a high number of learners often have to rely on school tuckshops and vendors for lunch meals. Therefore, HEALA calls for the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health to put in place monitoring systems to ensure that tuck shops and vendors don’t sell meat products that were identified in the listeriosis contamination list.