The basics of the National School Nutrition Programme

The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) aims to enhance learning capacity and access to education by providing nutritious meals to learners at schools in South Africa's most impoverished communities.

What is the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP)?

The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) benefits over nine million learners in primary and secondary schools in impoverished communities. The nutrition programme started in 1994 initially in primary schools as part of the government’s measures for alleviating poverty. 

The three key objectives of NSNP: 

  • to contribute to enhanced learning capacity through school nutrition programmes
  • to promote food production and improve food security in school communities
  • to strengthen nutrition education in school communities.

How is the NSNP funded? 

Treasury uses Department of Education (DBE) data to allocate the NSNP overall national budget. The DBE receives a conditional grant and distributes the amounts proportionate to the needs of each province. The provincial departments then send a grant payment schedule to schools specifying transfer dates and sum of money. 

The management structure

The school principal, supported by the School Governing Body (SGB) is responsible for the overall management of the NSNP. The School Governing Body (SGB) also appoints volunteer food handlers.  

NSNP School coordinator (usually an educator or administrator appointed by the school principal) supervises the everyday activities of the programme, from inventory to bookkeeping.

The Nutrition Committee comprises the NSNP school coordinator, administrator, School Management Team, a member of the SGB and a volunteer food handler/or a food gardener. 

Volunteer food handlers (usually unemployed members of the community and especially parents with children in the school identified by the SGB. Volunteer food handlers receive a stipend to cook and serve the food and clean the kitchens and utensils. One volunteer food handler is used for every 200 learners to learners in large schools, while in small schools, the ratio can be one (1) for every 125 learners. Volunteer food handlers should have good personal hygiene and have good standing in the community. 

Why school meals matter

It’s a pretty startling but not surprising reality: One in four children under the age of five is stunted, and in sharp contrast, one in eight is overweight. Due to widespread poverty, many children do not get regular meals in their homes. Yet good nutrition fuels the brain energy that children need to be alert and receptive in school. By providing meals at the schools every day, the NSNP helps to reduce hunger and improve attendance and performance. The nutrition programme contributes to advancing children’s rights to health and education.

The school menu 

The Department of Education and the Department of Health provide menu options from which the schools may choose. The ideal school menu comprises at least 30% of the daily nutritional needs of learners per meal; the major food groups; modest fats and oils and seasoning; and is socially acceptable and uses indigenous food. 

Food buying and handling

Schools can buy good quality food from local suppliers. They should also have gardens, which add fresh food to the meals and help educators and learners to learn about food production. Food safety, good hygiene practices and OHS Act knowledge are essential. 

Training and advocacy 

The various constituencies involved in implementing the NSNP get regular training, including programme requirements, good hygiene, food safety and nutrition, and sustainable food production. 

How parents and the community support the NSNP 

Parents and community members can support the NSNP in the following ways: 

  • Volunteer at school food gardens. 
  • Attend school meetings, ask questions about the use of funds in NSNP and report fraud or mismanagement. 
  • Encourage your children to eat at school. 
  • Donate kitchens and equipment, protective clothing and first aid kits, and printed nutrition information. 

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