What's on the menu this year?
Posted on April 25th, 2018 by Charles Grey
pap and soy. For fifty years an important aspect of school feeding was being overlooked: the timing of school feeding. It is imperative that a child is fed before 10:00. Megan Pentz-Kluyts, registered dietetics consultant of Cape Town explains: ‘The rate of glucose metabolism in children’s brains increases from birth until 4 years of age, reaching twice that of the adults’ metabolic rate, and remains elevated until 9 – 10 years of age.[i] Regular meals to ensure a continuous glucose supply to the brain are therefore more important in children than in adults. Children who are food insecure and/or undernourished were found to have poorer cognitive functioning when they miss breakfast.[ii] In addition, they have a high prevalence of behavioural, emotional, and academic problems, and are more likely to repeat a grade.’[iii] In order to include a practical and nutritious morning meal to the PSFA menu, a mealie meal porridge was tested at ten schools in 2008. Initially, only one 10kg bag was used to test cooking time and the number of servings, but the response was so overwhelming that children came back for second helpings. Preparers now prepare an instant flavoured ready-mix porridge to serve before school starts. Flavours include banana, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. The Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA) menu is different from the NSNP ‘government’ menu in terms of portion size only. The NSNP schools are schools receiving their meals as part of the Western Cape government-PSFA tender, while PSFA feeds schools that fall outside the parameters of the government’s tender. ‘PSFA schools’ are fed slightly larger portions of starch and protein, but receive the same number of fruit – twice a week, the same as ‘government schools’. Fruit was only formally introduced into the menu in 2009. Obviously, the available budget limits the menu but given an unlimited budget a leading nutritionist would want to see a variety of in-season fruit, full cream milk served every day and better quality protein to improve the nutrition of the current menu. Apart from relieving short-term hunger, providing food at school has additional benefits. Research by the Department of Education under the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) has shown that school meals improve punctuality, school attendance, concentration as well as the general wellbeing of participating learners. A dietetic survey done by the Nutrition and Dietetics Unit of the Department of Medicine of the University of Cape Town (UCT) at Bridgetown Primary in 1997 confirms this. It was found that school feeding can alleviate short-term hunger and has a positive effect on learning capabilities as well as improving physical activity. This prove that school feeding, through decades of changes in politics and ingredients, is still a vital element in the successful education of Western Cape’s youth. This sentiment finds a voice in PSFAs motto – you can’t teach a hungry child. 1] Nyaradi A, Li J, Hickling S, Foster J, Oddy WH. The role of nutrition in children’s neurocognitive development, from pregnancy through childhood. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7(March):97. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00097. 1] Taras H. Nutrition and student performance at school. J Sch Healh. 2005;75(6):199-213. doi:JOSH25 [pii]\n10.1111/j.1746-1561.2005.00025.x [doi].  Kimbro R. Breakfast for Health. Food Res Action Cent. 2014:27-30.]]>