Stunting or impaired growth remains prevalent amongst the poorest South African children. This can result in increased episodes of illness, poor cognitive function and poor educational attainment.
Woolworths has announced a new partnership with UNICEF South Africa to help increase South African children’s access to good nutrition.
In line with its aim to support innovative, scalable programmes, the retailer has committed R4 million rand over the next 3 years working in partnership with UNICEF to roll out a pilot programme, to improve nutrition for children in 50 under-resourced schools in Gauteng.
In partnership with the Department of Basic Education, the programme will benefit around 50,000 learners in selected disadvantaged primary schools that participate in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). This initiative aims to improve the capacity of about 100 Volunteer Food Handlers, who are local community members to prepare balanced school meals for children under safe and hygienic conditions. Additionally, learners in these schools will be taught about good hygiene practices including the importance of handwashing with soap before eating. The NSNP currently feeds over 9 million learners a hot cooked meal daily.
“UNICEF is playing a vital role in South Africa and throughout Africa to address nutrition and hygiene of those most in need. We welcome the opportunity to partner with them,” said Woolworths Head of Corporate Affairs, Zinzi Mgolodela. “Providing nutritious and safe food is at the heart of Woolworths’ food business; and it is also a strategic priority for us to partner with organisations like UNICEF so that we contribute to the movement towards sustainable food security for all South Africans. We are delighted to be funding a UNICEF and government-led programme that aims to improve children’s health and education through access to better prepared school meals.”
Schools are ideal environments to implement nutrition and health programmes as they can reach large numbers of children, repeatedly. Therefore, this programme will improve the quality of the meals that children receive in schools.
UNICEF South Africa Chief of Education, Mr. Wycliffe Otieno, said: “Good nutrition and hygiene are investments in the future of children and the country. Addressing malnutrition is crucial to enabling children’s right to survive, grow, develop and learn to their full potential. While this partnership will develop the training module for Volunteer Food Handlers and trial it in 50 schools, the materials will serve as a resource with potential to be rolled out to the 50,000 Volunteer Food Handlers across the country; it is this type of catalytic work with private sector partners that sets the stage for at-scale programme delivery by government across the country.”
Woolworths has a well-established track record of supporting various food security programmes such as its long-term sponsorship of Food & Trees for Africa’s EduPlant National food gardening and greening programme; the ongoing Woolworths stores’ initiatives to make surplus food readily available to local charities on a daily basis and its recent partnership with FoodForward SA. “Our new partnership with UNICEF is very exciting as it complements and enhances our range of food security and nutrition initiatives as Woolworths joins hands to play our part in a world where there is zero hunger.” Mgolodela concludes.