South Africa has a serious obesity problem– with almost 70% of women, 40% of men and 13% of children being either overweight or obese. The obesity rate has increased exponentially over the past decade, largely as a result of a huge increase in consumption of junk food and sugary drinks. Obesity is associated with several non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. There is is an urgent need to protect the health of South Africans against calorie dense, nutrient poor food and beverages especially in children. Sugary drinks are strongly associated with weight gain in both children and adults and have no nutritional value.
Proceeding with the campaign for a tax on sugary drinks the past year which was passed into law on Dec 14, 2017 and will be effective from April 01, 2018. HEALA is working on a campaign to target the removal of junk food and sugary drinks in schools. Research state that drinking one can of sugary drink per day increases likelihood of being overweight by 55% for children and the tuckshop guideline states that schools should only sell unsweetened drinks and that’s not the case in our schools.
The campaign targets the school feeding scheme, tuck-shops, vendors, marketing of junk food targeted at children and understanding of food labels provided to pupils. We have been looking at school nutrition policies that are available from government departments (DBE & DoH) and established an audit to identify loopholes in the existing nutrition policies.