A healthy body and mind: Grade 3 pupils from Mdantsane’s Vulumzi Primary School enjoy a meal as part of the education department’s feeding scheme to make up for poor nutrition. Picture: MARNÉ ERASMUS
A healthy body and mind: Grade 3 pupils from Mdantsane’s Vulumzi Primary School enjoy a meal as part of the education department’s feeding scheme to make up for poor nutrition. Picture: MARNÉ ERASMUS

Food and clothing retailer Woolworths has committed R4m over the next three years to improve nutrition for children in 50 under-resourced schools in Gauteng, through a partnership with the UN Childrens Fund (Unicef).

The pilot programme will also include a partnership with the Department of Basic Education, to benefit about 50,000 pupils in selected disadvantaged primary schools that participate in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

The 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.

According to 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," Mgolodela said.

The programme is expected to improve the quality of meals that children receive in schools.

Unicef SA chief of education 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."

Otieno added: "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," he added.

Woolworths currently supports 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.

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