TEMBISA – The Pioneer Foods Schools Breakfast Nutrition Programme was officially launched in Gauteng today. The expansion of this flagship programme now provides more than 34 000 primary school children with a nutritious breakfast each weekday morning, across the country.

Speaking at a ceremony held at Winnie Mandela Primary School in Tembisa, Pioneer Foods CEO, Tertius Carstens explained the rationale behind the programme: “As a leading food and beverage company in South Africa, we believe it is our responsibility to focus our social investment in those areas where it has the biggest impact in alleviating the hunger of our country’s children, on a sustainable basis.”

Pioneer Foods’ schools breakfast nutrition programme started in 2015 and in addition to Gauteng is now active in 35 primary schools across Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Northwest Province, Free State, Northern Cape, and the Western Cape.

This programme complements the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), Education’s National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) which currently provides nutritious meals to more than 9.2 million learners across Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools. As a flagship program of the Department, the NSNP does not only provide daily nutritious meals to enhance learning capacity but at its core promotes a healthy lifestyle through nutrition education as well as empowering schools to develop school food gardens to further boost the nutritional value of the meals.

Delivering the Keynote address at the launch, Deputy Minister of DBE, Dr Regina Mhaule said: “The National School Nutrition Programme exists to advance our learners’ wellbeing, It is not a standalone programme but part of our Care and Support for Teaching and Learning package, a holistic approach which seeks to address all multiple barriers to learning.’ – about the NSNP”

As part of its programme, Pioneer Foods provides nutritious cereals such as Weet Bix, Bokomo Corn Flakes, and White Star Instant porridge to the schools; as well as bowls, spoons, long life milk and aprons for the food handlers. “Learners are thereby assured of at least one wholesome meal a day and are able to concentrate on their schoolwork,” says Carstens.

“We have had a consistent problem with our learners not performing well in class – because they were starting each day on an empty stomach. I am happy to report that since the Pioneer Foods breakfast programme began there has been a noticeable difference in their performance,” explains Mr Simango, Principal of the Winnie Mandela Primary School, and adds: “Our learners no longer run in the mornings because they are late – but rather to receive a delicious and nutritious breakfast. This allows them to start the school day with adequate energy.”  

The Deputy Minister highlighted the importance of strong Public-Private partnerships such as this one with Pioneer Foods, ‘’It is undoubted that indeed as Nelson Mandela said Education is the engine of Development, as such, it is pertinent that South African corporates continue to show their faith in the next generation by giving of their time, resources, skills and knowledge to help improve the lives of learners through their generous donations. The Pioneer Foods In-School Breakfast Programme will thus play a critical role in meeting our learner performance targets in the annual assessment and performance of learners as a whole’’, Mhaule Said.

The schools chosen by Pioneer Foods to participate in this programme are in the lowest quintiles, and so the learners there are from the most disadvantaged areas of the country.  Carstens adds: “We are committed to policies that enhance the economic and social conditions in the communities in which we operate. Pioneer Foods has a number of production sites situated in the general Ekurhuleni area. Hence we are glad to help in alleviating immediate and urgent hunger, but also play a small part in combating non- communicable diseases that arise from a poor diet”.

The Department of Basic Education is looking at various ways to extend their existing NSNP programme, and according to the Deputy Minister this kind of partnership assists in that endeavour: “Partnerships such as these add value to our quest as a Department to continuously improve the quality of the NSNP programme, we appreciate that Pioneer Foods has joined us to support the breakfast programme which complements the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) lunch meals’’.

In conclusion, Carstens explained “This programme is about far more than merely providing a bowl of cereal – we are empowering these children to fully utilise the potential of education to secure their own food for the future”.

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