For most township pupils, living a healthy life is a struggle and to counter that, the National School Nutrition Programme was introduced by the education department in 2009.
The programme is designed to enhance the educational experience for needy pupils through the provision of healthy meals at school.
On Wednesday October 18, Sinethemba High School was a hive of activity as National Nutrition Week was marked, under the theme “Rethink your drink, choose water”.
Speakers encouraged pupils to live a healthy life and drink more water instead of fizzy drinks and other beverages.
Verona Witbooi, a dietitian with the provincial health department, said living healthily was an individual choice and encouraged people who struggled to change their diet, to start small.
Ms Witbooi warned that fizzy drinks and other beverages could contribution to the development of all sorts of ailments and lifestyle diseases such as heart conditions, certain cancers, diabetes, hypertension and obesity among others.
“We do not want these diseases. People need to nurture their bodies, especially young people. They need to look at their intakes. They have good bodies that they need to look after.
“They need to stay away from fizzy drinks because they contain a lot of sugar.
“Young people need to take ownership of their health and drink more water,” she said.
School principal Nelson Poopedi commended the school feeding programme for helping the school and the community at large.
He said before the programme, his children had no interest in school or learning because they were hungry.
“This is programme is magnificent, to say the least. I am happy that today we are celebrating it here.
“The theme of water would work out even though we are facing water scarcity in the province. But we really need an active nation. We now should look at water as food. I would encourage everyone to drink safe and clean water,” he said.
He said intervention by the government to feed pupils should be applauded and emphasised that many South African households – not only Philippi residents – struggled to put food on the table due to the high rates of unemployment and poverty.
Glen van Harte, director of the Western Cape Education Department’s Metro South Education District office, warned that if people did not respect water, they would soon be without it.
He also reiterated the call for pupils to respect their bodies by living a healthy lifestyle.
Mr Van Harte said feeding programmes were unable to keep up with the demand for their services..
“Everybody should be fed, not only fed but fed with decent meal. We are currently feeding 40 percent of our children. That can not be correct,” he said.
The Western Cape Department of Education’s deputy chief education specialist with the national school nutrition programme Lindile Kamana, said he was proud that the education department could provide three decent meals a day to many disadvantaged pupils.
Mr Kamana said many pupils were ingesting too much sugar.
“Water cleanses (the body of) all the toxins so they need to drink water on daily basis. I feel proud that the R300 million allocated for the programme is working wonders,” he said.