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Posted 22 February 2017

Food, glorious food: Better eating can create better learning says Lorna Aitken, sharing some thoughts from Scotland on how and why good food is important as we head towards the fifth International School Meals Day.

Lorna Aitken is the Food and Health Development Officer at Education Scotland

Click here to read the article (reproduced with kind permission from Children in Scotland).

Posted 13 February 2017

Safe Nutrition for Children in Peru

Known as ‘Qali Warma’, the school feeding programme in Peru delivers milk and other nutritious products to millions of children aged three to five across eight regions in Peru, including coastal areas, mountainous regions and the capital city, Lima, home to more than 30% of the population. The programme also has a strong educational element, teaching children about the importance of healthy eating, the personal hygiene, recycling and protecting the environment. During 2017 we expect that more than 250 000 children will get milk in our packages.

We took the first step to get involved several years ago when starting to talk to the government about  the school feeding programme. Together with Tetra Laval Food for Development we could share our  expertise, examples, best practices and all the support that we can give to them in terms of school  feeding. The government was looking for an easier, safer solution. So, along with the World Food  Programme and Food for Development, we carried out an assessment and made recommendations. In  2015, the opportunity arose to start supplying enriched milk and milk with cereals beverages in Tetra  Brik® Aseptic packages with our customers. Subsequently, we continued working with food processors on formulation and packaging design and the new products were ready by March. Now around 25% of the products that are being distributed through the school feeding programme are ready-to-drink products and the other 75% requires further preparation.

We share our expertise and real success cases around the world, share how we help to integrate all the cycle, improve formulations, ensuring that each portion delivers maximum nutritional benefit. But perhaps the other most significant contribution is in helping to build bridges between the public and private sectors. In these kinds of programmes, it is important to work as a team with the food processors and invite them to participate and offer a very good product for the children. Another important support is our knowledge and expertise in recycling. It is also important to work with the schools and the operators of the programme to collect the packages and send them to the recycle industry and close the life cycle of the package.

We made a survey during the first months of the programme and the result was amazing; more than 80% of the children showed a positive acceptance of the product and the package. This is the reason why we have to continue on this way and continue working for the future of the country.

My focus is to continue working with all stakeholders – the government, local producers and Tetra Pak – to support the future of the programme. We have to continue to find different products, not necessary dairy products. Fruit juices, new flavours and ready to drink solutions will bring healthy nutrition to the children. The most important priority is, in alliance with the food processors, to make food safe and available, everywhere. Finally, as I mentioned before, it is also important to connect the recycle industry and work very hard with environmental protection.

There are so many rewarding aspects of my work… Seeing the children’s faces when they get their drinks, and knowing that they are getting safe nutrition. Knowing that their chances of having a healthy future is priceless. But I’m also really delighted that we are delivering the same products to the school feeding programme as we do to the commercial market: these children are getting the best. It’s something exciting and inspirational. I’d also like to think that we have helped to raise standards across the programme as a whole, and that we can continue to build a stronger supply chain here in Peru so that the benefits of the school feeding programme are felt as widely as possible.

Klaus Plenge is Key Account Director, Tetra Pak Peru.

Posted 6 February 2017

Celebrate 2017 International School Meals Day

As I think back over my years serving as Deputy Under-Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the United States Department of Agriculture, some of my fondest memories center on International School Meals Day. I was so excited as I sat in a classroom in Montgomery County, Maryland back in 2013 waiting for that first international Skype experience. While I was excited, the students could hardly sit still in their seats.

As the Skype progressed, I was reminded once again of how much more we have in common than we have that’s different. These young students talked together for over an hour, sharing customs and talking about the different interest and hobbies they had—much connected to foods. They also discussed the importance of healthy eating habits and the impact that these habits have on their success in school. They talked about school meals and family meals, they talked about snacks, they talked about unusual foods they liked and identified foods they’d never tasted before as they talked about foods that were unique to their countries.

I could tell the classroom teachers had worked with the students to be prepared for the discussions. They had studied the countries of their counterparts. They had tied their Skype experience to math, history, science and geography.  I noticed the excitement of the teachers and was pleased, when at the end of the Skype session, they were discussing future communication and connections between the classrooms. I could tell both teachers and students had benefitted from the session and as the kids were discussing future plans, it was obvious they were also growing as global citizens. This country across the ocean was no longer just a spot on a map but now, to those kids, was a real place with which they could truly identify. They realized that they had so much more in common than they’d at first suspected.

While I wasn’t in that classroom for future Skype sessions, I learned that the kids enjoyed several more connections and that the teachers felt they’d benefitted as much as the children.  I’m hopeful that teachers, students and advocates will share information about ISMD and the benefits that are seen and felt in every participating classroom.

As we move forward as a world, these connections have the potential to not only have a huge impact on the health and well-being of our children today, but can also have an impact on them as our leaders of the world tomorrow. These leaders will be able to see people across the world in a different way. Not just as people but as former Skype-mates and friends; recognising the many characteristics that make us one rather than the few characteristics that might be seen as making us different.

Dr. Janey Thornton is former Deputy Under-Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, USDA.

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