During our trip we aim to visit (local) health care programs, research projects and clinics. Our first visit was a couple of weeks ago in Potchefstroom – South Africa with Marinka van der Hoeven.
As part of her PhD at the North West University, she started an intervention program where school children receive indigenous vegetables as a school meal replacing the existing school meals to increase nutritional status. We visited two primary schools which implemented this intervention successfully. As soon as we enter the classroom the children start singing, giving us a warm welcome.
There is little variation in diet and children sometimes go to the school gardens after school hours to pick the vegetables grown there to eat. We learn that the school meals are a great incentive for children to go to school as there wouldn’t be food available at home. Indigenous vegetables as part of a school meal can provide a sustainable means of increasing nutritional status of school children. The vegetables are available at low cost and easy to farm in this rural area and the equipment required to cook will remain with the schools after the study is completed.
We were impressed by the local involvement and willingness of schools to participate in studies, indicating an opportunity for change. Both government schools are situated on farm land (free of charge) and the farmers take responsibility for maintenance of the schools. The passion of the researchers working on this program was inspiring. Their ability to adapt to difficulties encountered in the field and the capacity to make changes and improve the program along the way, increasing its value, was impressive.