Tucking in at some shops unhealthy for your child
Only children at affluent schools can afford a better daily choice than chips and sweets, writes PAIGE SUTHERLAND
IT’S junk food the kids crave. Chips, burgers, sweets are the most popular items at school tuck shops, leaving healthier – and more pricey – items languishing on the shelves. “The biggest seller is the hot chips,” said Ardi Hagglund, who runs the Camps Bay High School tuck shop.
“We serve what is wanted – they don’t want a salad, but they have the option.
“If you want healthy food, you have to pay a big price,” he said. “But, we are serving kids – they mostly can’t afford it.”
At Gardens Commercial High School, where most students come from the townships, healthier options are more of a luxury, said Shihaam Davids, who has run the tuck shop for more than a decade.
“I would sell healthier food, but unfortunately it is too expensive for the kids,” Davids said.
Everything at the tuck shop – assorted sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads and other snacks – is priced under R10.
“If you can buy a health bar for R8 and a candy bar for R3, our kids are going to buy the candy bar,” she added.
At Constantia Waldorf School, a wealthy secondary school in Constantia, only organic food is sold at its tuck shop.
Beverly Kleinhans, who has run the shop there for 22 years, said the school focused on providing healthy food for the children.
Students can buy freshly baked muffins, spinach quiche and salad, corn on the cob and various sandwiches.
One can even get freshly squeezed apple juice, but that costs R10. No chocolate, chips or cooldrinks are sold.
“Most of these children eat like this at home,” Kleinhans said.
Nutritionist Anniza de Villiers said parent involvement in lowerincome schools was lacking.
“Parents in more affluent schools can champion for the tuck shop to drive healthier options,” De Villiers said. “Parents in lower-income schools just do not have the time.”
The Education and Health Departments are finalising guidelines on healthier alternatives for tuck shops such as pretzels, dried fruit, health bars and flavoured water.
However, enforcing these guidelines, especially in underfunded schools, was difficult, De Villiers added. The teachers and staff were “already too overloaded to manage such efforts”.
In a recent study by De Villiers, of the 100 low-income schools surveyed in the Western Cape, only eight had policies governing the types of food sold at the tuck shops.
From grades 1 to 11, good eating habits and nutrition are integrated into the curriculum, according to Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman at the Department of Education.
In addition, 342 Western Cape schools had food gardens, including schools in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, she said.
But keeping fruit and vegetables fresh was difficult for some lowincome schools, De Villiers explained. Most of the schools she surveyed did not have refrigerator space for perishable food.
Jane Battersby, a professor at the University of Cape Town who specialises in food insecurity, said selling junk food at school compromised the nutritional message being taught in the classroom.
“Even if these kids are getting enough calories, they are not getting the right nutrients, which has longterm developmental effects.
“Such effects include stunted growth, lack of bone density, heart disease and cancer.
“You cannot undo the effects of bad nutrition in the early years,” she explained.
“When you adopt bad habits early, they stay with you.”
GREEN CHOICE: Beverley Kleinhans cuts up an avocado for a pupil’s break tea. She has worked at Constantia Waldorf for 22 years.
CALORIE-LADEN: A pupil wolfs down a burger and a cold DRINK at Camps Bay High.