During the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s ongoing engagement with Early Childhood Development (ECD) forums, practitioners identified the need to focus on nutrition as a critical dimension of ECD. The forums expressed their dismay that not enough attention was being paid to the nutrition of children in ECD centres. Owing to this, and their call for greater focus on this sphere of the work, the Foundation approached Discovery to assist with the training of principals and cooks from ECD centres to enhance their nutrition awareness and skills.
Good nutrition is essential for early childhood development. Studies show that good nutrition at an early age leads to children being more likely to perform better in school, score higher on tests and are less likely to have speech and language difficulties. It is also well known that you cannot teach a hungry child.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Discovery Vitality developed a day-long course for ECD practitioners and cooks with the Healthy Food Studio at Discovery in Sandton to run from the 13th of July 2019 to the 19th of September 2019. Over four hundred practitioners have undergone the training and have been equipped with the theory and practical cooking skills to provide sustainable and effective nutrition to children in ECD centres. Most practitioners attending the course are from Gauteng, with some being from the North West. To ensure practitioners do not experience difficulty in attending the course, the Foundation arranged shuttles for practitioners to and from Discovery.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation monitored and evaluated the programme and practitioners completed pre- and post-class surveys to measure the effectiveness and impact of the project, as well as to develop a model that may be followed by other organisations in collaboration with the private sector.