INMED Partnerships for Children – South Africa

Improving Nutrition through School Vegetable Gardens

INMED and JAM (Joint Aid Management), INMED’s partner in Orange farm, with support from the Monsanto Fund, are working together toward five key objectives. These objectives support the goal of improving the nutritional status of approximately 10,600 school children ages 5-14 in the community Orange Farm in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, through a sustainable program of school and community gardening and nutrition education.

The Healthy Futures South Africa, a program launched with the Monsanto Fund’s three-year grant to INMED Partnerships for Children (INMED) is now showing some exciting results. The program is transferring a successful program model ‘Healthy Children’ - a Healthy Futures program model - pioneered in Brazil and also supported by the Monsanto Fund. School and community gardens are flourishing; produce is being harvested for school lunches; knowledge about nutrition is increasing among students, teachers and cafeteria workers; and vital nutrition, health and hygiene behaviors are being promoted and adopted.

INMED South Africa is the regional program initiative for INMED Partnerships for Children, an international children’s welfare organization working in more than 100 countries since 1986 to ensure children’s health, education and safety from the prenatal stage and infancy through adolescence and to inspire communities to invest in sustainable positive change for today’s generation of children and those to come.

Key program objectives are to:

  1. Increase the amount of fresh produce available for school lunches through the establishment of school gardens.

  2. Increase the nutritional value of school lunches through the incorporation of fresh produce from school gardens.

  3. Improve the nutritional and health status of children in project schools.

  4. Increase knowledge of gardening and nutrition topics among teachers, school feeding volunteers and children.

  5. Develop a model for institutional, behavioral and financial sustainability of the Healthy Futures South Africa program.

Since its inception in 2007, substantial progress has been made in all participating schools, including the incorporation of garden produce into school lunches and in areas where the harvests were so successful that they exceeded the schools’ needs—the sale of vegetables to the community.

As a result of the program, fewer students are missing school because of improved nutrition. At the same time more gardens are being planted in the community in addition to the school gardens, said Ethel Zulu, director of INMED’s South Africa Programs.

Absenteeism at the schools is down 15 percent because of improved health and because the enhanced school meals act as an incentive for students to be in school, she added.

"Changes in attitudes and behaviors have been especially rewarding to note," Zulu said. "Orange Farm does not have an agricultural heritage or rich soil, and there are more physical and psychological limitations to establishing gardens and incorporating fresh produce into meals. However, we are happy to report that these limitations are being overcome."