The Department of Basic Education spent on average R2‚51 per child per day on food at eight primary schools in the Eastern Cape.
This is according to new research by Nelson Mandela Bay University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth‚ published in the Journal of Consumer Science.
The research was conducted at eight quintile three‚ historically black and coloured schools in the city‚ with 8‚587 children participating from February 2015 to March 2017.
The quintile rating of a school is based on the income‚ unemployment and illiteracy of the surrounding area.
Quintile one to three schools ask no school fees and are on the Department of Basic Education’s National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
The R2‚51 included the food‚ the gas used to prepare food and paying food servers.
Average portions included 31g of protein‚ 55g starch and 48g of vegetables and fruit. These meals often consisted of chicken‚ carrots and rice.
“Portion sizes varied greatly between the various schools in the study.”
Researchers said these portions often did not provide the 2400 kJ of energy or 30% of the recommended daily intake of 8000 kJ primary school learners need.
“Chronic undernutrition in the children is reflected by the prevalence of stunting.”
Stunting is when children are too short for their age.
Other data in the study was collected via observations and conducting 12 interviews at each school with the personnel who buy and cook food.
The researchers found food often went to waste because it was “not always tasty”.
They discovered one knock-on effect of the NSNP is children often get less food at home‚ because parents know their children are fed at school.
Four of the eight schools in the study had kitchens‚ but none met the requirements of space‚ plumbing and electricity. None had the minimum amount of utensils and equipment as prescribed by the Department of Basic Education.
Food providers were not trained in food safety and hygiene. None of the food handlers used disposable gloves when serving food. Researchers said this is a “serious problem” because 60% of the children in the study had at least one type of parasitic infection.
In some schools the few available chopping boards were used for all food groups without distinguishing between raw and cooked.
“Only one school used different chopping boards for raw and cooked foods.”