The UN estimates that almost 400 million children around the world go to bed hungry. Many also go to school without breakfast. In other countries, the problem is obesity, and teaching children to make healthy food choices, and the pollution caused by excessive packaging of packed lunches.
Gaza: Better learning
At many schools in Gaza, around half the pupils come to school with an empty stomach. 13% of children in Gaza suffer from severe malnutrition and so many children are underfed that some sporting and cultural activities have been suspended because they are too tiring for the children.
So the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East distributes energy rations to 200,000 school children every day.
But it is also important to help families provide for their children. The Ard El Insan institute for nutrition was set up in 1984. Every day it sees around 50 families with problems like retarded growth, vitamin deficiencies and anaemia. So they give nutritional education as well as food supplies.
Malnutrition figures are now dropping but the situation remains desperate. Some projects have run out of money and stopped distributing food, leaving thousands of children in Gaza with an empty stomach.
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Finland: Feeding the senses
‘Sapere’ is a Latin word meaning “taste, feel and be brave!” At schools in Finland they use the Sapere Method to teach children about nutrition. The children are encouraged to play around with their food: they play games which involve tasting all kinds of vegetables, they help prepare meals in the mini-kitchen and they even dress up as vegetables.
The children are encouraged to use all five senses to learn about food and food preparation. They are also encouraged to express their opinions and listen to others. In the mini-garden children grow vegetables on their own. In the autumn they also visit the surrounding woods to pick berries, which are then deep-frozen and eaten throughout the following year.
Around 3,500 pre-school teachers in Finland have been trained to use the Sapere Method in their day care centres. In many towns it is a part of the pre-school curriculum.
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Canada: Eco-friendly lunches
The amount of municipal waste generated per capita in Canada has increased steadily – from 510 kg in 1980 to 894 kg in 2007 – well above the OECD average. Activists say Canada must reduce the amount of solid waste generated and divert more of it from landfills through recycling and other initiatives.
In Montreal, every morning Catherine prepares lunch boxes for her family. And she uses reusable containers for everything. But not everyone is as conscientious as Catherine.
Canada is the biggest producer of waste amongst industrialised countries. It produces nearly 900 kilos per person per year, twice as much as Japan or Finland. And pre-prepared, over-packaged, individual portions for lunchboxes contribute to the problem.
But not everyone is as conscientious as Catherine. Canada is the biggest producer of waste amongst industrialised countries. It produces nearly 900 kilos per person per year, twice as much as Japan or Finland. And pre-prepared, over-packaged, individual portions for lunchboxes contribute to the problem.
So in little groups, the pupils examine the contents of their lunchboxes. The idea is to teach them what is good for their health and to reduce the amount of wrapping used in lunch boxes.
This approach was developed by Etablissements Vert Brundtland, a group based in Quebec which encourages schools to educate young people about sustainable development.