At the Ouokon-Ahlan Public Elementary School, Ouinhi Municipality, Zou, special emphasis is placed on nutrition education as part of the implementation of activities in schools with school canteens. This initiative, developed in this school through various learning activities such as games and the establishment of gardens and school fields, has not only improved the quality of meals served to learners both at school and at home, but also cases of malnutrition and sickness in limited their ranks.
The four cooks dedicated to the daily tasks of preparing meals for the children of Epp Ouokon-Ahlan in Ouinhi are now equipped with good eating and nutritional practices. They learned how to turn every daily menu into a healthy, nutritious and balanced meal for the children. They know the combinations of foods that must be put together to ensure that the food offered by the school canteen contains the best nutrients.
To achieve this, they benefit from nutrition education that encourages continuous learning of good cooking practices to preserve the nutrients found in food. These nutrition training sessions are also opportunities to educate kitchen moms about hygiene issues that are inseparable from kitchen work.
“Our application of the knowledge we receive through this nutrition education means that children in our school eat well and rarely get sick. They are in good health,” comments Constante Gnonlonfin, President of the Epp Ouokon-Ahlan school canteen.
“Nutrition training at Ouokon-Ahlan Public Elementary School has improved the quality of the meals served in the school canteen. This has allowed our children to adopt proper hygiene behaviors and eat a healthy and balanced diet,” argues Hervé Zoungan, director of Epp Ouokon-Ahlan.
Children are not left out on the path of nutrition education.
Fun tools to impart knowledge about nutrition
Nutritional education at Epp Ouokon-Ahlan is not just something for women in the kitchen. It is also aimed at children to educate them and guide them in making nutritionally satisfying food choices. Through the daily meals at school, the children learn something about nutrition and hygiene in a playful way.
The school has a number of educational games. “I learn nutrition and hygiene in a playful way” is aimed at pupils in the pedagogical, elementary and intermediate levels (CP to CM1) of public elementary schools who benefit from the school canteen program.
This series of educational games in the format of arrange food puzzles and question and answer cards introduces children to food categories while improving their knowledge of basic hygiene. The play approach provides an innovative entertainment space in which children playfully learn to recognize growth, protection and energy foods and to associate them with school meals at school and at home.
Nutrition education: a guarantee of good health
According to witnesses, children in Ouokon-Ahlan were often prone to childhood diseases. This situation has improved since the introduction of the school canteen. The community, understanding the link between good nutrition and children’s well-being, will not trade its involvement for support of the canteen.
“Parents don’t just wait for what the government sends. Everyone brings what they can from home. Yams, cassava, potatoes, beans… they bring what they have produced to the field to support the canteen. Sometimes they ask for donations and goodwill comes to support the school,” confirms the director of Epp Ouokon-Ahlan, Hervé Zoungan.
This community participation offers mother cooks the opportunity to vary the dishes outside of the World Food Program food basket. For example, providing yams to the community means that children in Epp Ouokon-Ahlan sometimes eat meals like yam stew.
The community’s commitment to good nutrition for children has led to the initiative to offer breakfast at the school every day at 10am.
“For almost four months, our children have been eating soy-enriched porridge without paying for it. At noon they take the hot food from the canteen,” testifies the director of the school.
‹‹ During a meeting we decided to apply for donations. The money raised from this fundraiser has made it possible to buy corn and soy and our children get porridge every morning at 10 am ›› adds the President of the Parents’ Association, Antoine Amoussou. At school, parents agree that the food on offer in the canteen means that the children are less and less ill.
All schools benefiting from the school canteen program have WFP food for school meals. Schools that create a school garden around their canteen have something special because they add nutrients to the meals offered to children.
An encouraging example for WFP
In this school we eat a balanced and nutritious diet
Epp Ouokon-Ahlan’s school garden covers an area of more than 700 square meters with a variety of horticultural and fruit products. There is a wide variety of species there, from African nightshade to amaranth, including moringa, okra, basil, lemongrass, sweet potato, tomato, banana, papaya… The school and community have even created a fish pond within the garden for breeding of tilapia fish. This ensures an animal protein source in the school meal.
The vegetables in the garden are primarily intended for feeding the children in the canteen. “In the event of a surplus, part is sold at the market and the proceeds are donated to run the canteen,” says Joinville Essey, manager of school canteens in Ouinhi municipality. These fresh produce from the garden help improve the nutritional quality of meals for school children.
In December 2021, Julienne and Bachirou, two school children in the initiation course (CI) at the Epp Ouokon-Ahlan, were screened as children in a situation of mild malnutrition. This would not have been possible if the World Food Program had not initiated anthropometric measurements to monitor the nutritional status of children. This specific initiative makes it possible to take action to correct nutritional deficiencies in malnourished children as quickly as possible, in order to prevent their case from getting worse.
In the case of Julienne and Bachirou, parents were advised to encourage children to “eat green vegetables and eat growth foods,” Joinville Essey pointed out.
In March 2022, new measures were put in place and the two children went from being mildly malnourished to normal. The challenge is to keep them in this state permanently. “Before there was nutritional education, children fell ill here on a regular basis, so that in a week five to six classes are missing due to illness,” recalls the director of Epp Ouokon-Ahlan.
With all the activities around the school canteen, Hervé Zoungan acknowledges that cases of illness are becoming a thing of the past.
It is therefore clear that nutrition education in schools builds on the school feeding program to strengthen and promote healthy nutrition in the benefiting communities (school children, cooks, parents of school children and the community). The Epp Ouokon-Ahlan is an example of what is possible to teach communities about nutrition and hygiene, starting from the relationship between school and community that is created around the school canteen for the benefit of all.
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April 4, 2022 from