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South African teachers welcome "Virtuous Circle" project

The landmark “Virtuous Circle” project on nutrition, food waste, packaging and the circular economy in South Africa has reached a key milestone this month with the first results of its feeding programme becoming available. As part of this programme, which will be completed by the end of March 2017, almost one million Futurelife Smart Food pouches will have been distributed to 27 primary and combined primary schools, seven pre-primary schools and one orphanage.



The project, coordinated by DuPont in close collaboration with Futurelife, EqualTrade4, Amcor, Wildlands, RWPA and Wastebuster among others, uses a circular economy approach through the combination of smart food designed to meet the needs of children in isolated communities and smart packaging to keep the food fresh for as long as possible. The packaging from the food pouches is then recycled and converted into school desks. The project also entails an educational pillar, which educates children and teachers on the importance of sustainable waste management.

“The nutritious instant meals are delivered in so-called dual compartment pouches, which contain water on the one side and a dry solution on the other. Squeezing the pouch bursts the internal seal, allowing the content to be mixed and the meal to be ready for consumption. The nutritious value of the food is maintained through the entire process. This type of meal is ideal for use in situations where the food cannot be refrigerated or where there is little time, space or equipment to prepare nutritious meals.” explains Julika Falconer, Director of the Futurelife Foundation Trust.

To understand the impact of the feeding programme on the ground and to adapt it as needed, surveys of teachers from participating schools were carried out. In addition to the practical benefits in the preparation of food for teachers, the Futurelife Smart Food itself proved popular among the school children and their families. The pouches require no preparation time and do not take away any time from the academic curriculum. It also had a demonstrable impact on attendance levels and concentration in the class room.

228 teachers from 18 schools were consulted during the survey who provided first-hand insights into the impact of the feeding programme:
  • 99% said that the pouches save time compared to standard school meals
  • 95% found the pouches easy to use
  • 93% of teachers reported that children liked the taste of the meal
  • 86% of children didn’t find it difficult to finish the entire meal
A number of key learnings from the feeding programme of relevance to other schools, other countries or other areas have also been identified. These include the benefits of easy to store packaging, the importance of robust collection schemes and the potential to use the dual compartment pouches for use in other settings, such as in humanitarian aid initiative. As an example of this, during the course of the project, some of the pouches were provided to an NGO helping rural communities suffering from food insecurity in Malawi to shift to more efficient forms of agricultural production. It also underlines the critical need to ensure schoolchildren benefit from an early morning meal. In South Africa, this would involve the extension of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) to cover at least 50% of daily nutritional needs.

Craig Gibbs from the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), a valuable partner of the project which gave access to its local network of the district and school officials says “The challenge remains that the NSNP ensures only one meal a day for school children and after a long and arduous journey to school, children need sufficient food to focus on learning. The Virtuous Circle feeding programme is an important addition to the NSNP scheme and the most significant outcome of the project is that children receive not only one meal, but two.”

“The difference that has been made by this programme to our school is immense. We are teaching students coming from poor families who come to school hungry. Learners now get to eat breakfast here. We don’t have late comers and poor attendance issues anymore and enrollment seems to have improved. We hope that in the future this initiative will be extended to other schools. They need this type of programme to ensure their students are able to concentrate in the classroom, because without food, they cannot concentrate” says Head-teacher Khumalo, Aldinville Primary School, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa.

“Nutritious school meal programmes provide a long-term investment in children’s development that can provide strong economic, social and educational returns. On top of having wide-reaching effects across a child’s life, evidence shows that feeding a child at school can be an essential tool for the development and growth of communities and economies. Delivering effective education and sustainable health helps to ensure children become productive workers and citizens in democracy. When developing countries start feeding children at school, they shape the future of their own countries.” Arienne Mitchell, Executive Director, Global Child Nutrition Forum (GCNF).

For more information:
thevirtuouscircle.co.za

Publication date: 2/3/2017

 


 

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