The Department of Education in Limpopo has introduced feeding schemes at all rural schools in the province in an effort to promote healthy eating habits among learners, yet many children are choosing unhealthy food sold by the hawkers outside the school gates instead.
Sugary cold drinks, fat cakes and fried fish are some of the items learners are buying every day as they run the risk of developing health issues like high blood pressure and obesity.
“During the break I usually buy three fat cakes and a juice as I do not like the taste of the food which they give us at school. I once tried eating those beans, pap and fish they cook. They taste like the food they give you in hospital, so I prefer eating fat cakes and juice during the break,” said Mususumeli Ramasimu, a grade 4 pupil at Mulweli Primary School in Elim.
They taste like the food they give you in hospital, so I prefer eating fat cakes and juice during the break.
“Even though they keep on telling me that I will become fat and look like an older person, I just love eating the junk food, even if it has much more sugar. I feel happier after eating those foods,” said Mususumeli Ramasimu.
Obesity is a rising health issue among primary school children in the province, and could already be a greater problem than previously estimated.
Some causes of obesity among the youth in Limpopo range from a lack of healthy eating information and nutrition education, limited cooking skills and the higher costs of healthier food choices.
“I hate drinking water. When I am thirsty I drink juice or cold drink for me water is tasteless. I always fight with my mother because of this. She once told me that she will no longer give me pocket money as I always use the money to buy cold drinks,” said Marcus Mbedzi, a grade 7 pupil at Dzivhani Primary School in Thohoyandou.
“If I do not have money to buy a juice or a coke, I always settle for an ice block known as Cool Time. In a day I can finish five or six of them,” he said.
Some parents in the area believe that they are the ones who can play a major role in ensuring that their children stay healthy and make good choices.
“As parents we are the only ones who can look after our children’s health and make sure that they do not become obese in the future. All we have to do is to pack a healthy lunch box, which include fruits and water for our children when they go to school,” said Bridget Masindi, a mother of two.
“We must stop giving our children unnecessary money as they end up using it to buy unhealthy food. If we don’t stop them doing this now, it becomes more difficult to prevent it at a later stage,” she said.
Nurse Irene Sithole said: “Obesity is fast becoming a major issue – and even children are becoming victims. I think we need to act fast and wisely to become role models for future generations. It’s important to recognise the problems as early as possible and take action.”