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Model C School Tuck-shops unable to give learners the nutrition they deserve

Former Model C school tuck-shops are unable to give learners the nutrition they deserve reveals Nestlé study

The recent Tuck-shop Truths study, commissioned by Nestlé South Africa, has revealed that former Model C school tuck-shops need to improve their offering, particularly amongst lower income group schools.

The study was conducted amongst numerous upper and lower income group primary schools throughout South Africa, whose tuck-shop operators were audited to determine their product offering, and asked which items not stocked are requested by the children, as well as their opinions on pupil’s tuck-shop usage and eating habits while at school. In addition, mothers of children who attend both upper and lower LSM primary schools completed a survey online or were interviewed face-to-face to determine their children’s eating habits and their impressions of the tuck-shop offering at their child’s school.

The results showed that both learners and parents are requesting healthier food to be stocked by the tuck-shops, such as yoghurt, cheese, fresh milk, bottled water, biltong and nuts, as well as brown or whole-wheat rolls and sandwiches.

“While it’s great to see that pupils are requesting healthier alternatives, it’s worrying to see that in many cases the tuck-shops aren’t able to make these available to them. Subsequently, this encourages children to consume unhealthy food and drinks,” says Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa.

“When reviewing the data, it was interesting to compare the tuck-shop offerings at former Model C schools in the upper and lower income groups,” she continued.

Khan highlights some of the findings and conclusions below:

Beverage choices are certainly a lot healthier at upper LSM schools. While bottled water is the only beverage type that is stocked at all upper LSM schools surveyed, only 44% of lower LSM school tuck-shops offer this to pupils. Fruit juice is equally popular at upper LSM schools with 82% of their tuck-shops stocking these drinks. Only 63% of lower LSM schools offer fruit juice, preferring to sell unhealthier fizzy drink options. Overall, there is less variety offered at lower LSM schools, which leads to unhealthy choices.

A clear finding is that children’s dairy needs are not being met and that more dairy items should be made available. It was rather worrisome to see that none of the upper LSM schools surveyed and only 10% of lower LSM schools sell fresh milk, despite it being requested by upper income group learners (at 40%).

Similarly, cheese is only supplied at 8% of upper LSM schools and at none of the lower LSM schools surveyed, yet it is requested (also at 40%).

While 70% of lower income group tuck-shops sell yoghurt, only 42% of those at upper LSM schools offer this, despite it being requested.

Although custard is the most requested dairy item (80% at upper LSM schools and 20% at lower LSM schools), this product is not stocked at any of the schools surveyed.

Following this trend, a relatively low percentage of both schools (29% at upper LSM schools and 19% at lower LSM schools) offer fresh fruit.

While chips, popcorn, chocolate, lollipops/suckers and sweets are the most commonly sold snack items at both income group schools, it was interesting to see that more lower LSM schools offer healthier options like dried fruit, popcorn, nuts, fresh fruit and pretzels than the upper LSM schools.

The survey revealed that wholesome meals are a luxury with only a small percentage of lower LSM schools (33%) offering any form of meals - limited to curry and rice, homemade pie, pizza, chicken nuggets and chips, and soup - while at least 51% of upper LSM schools provide a choice of these options, as well as a range of pasta dishes, salad and more.

According to the tuck-shop operators surveyed, the affluent are privileged to be eating healthier food. When asked their opinions of the children’s nutrition during lunch breaks, the feedback from lower LSM schools was that learners eat far too much (25%) or a little too much (38%) junk food, while 31% believe they eat a good balance of junk and healthy food and 6% said that the learners eat entirely healthy food. The situation at upper LSM schools seems better, with 18% saying that children eat far too much junk food, 6% believing they eat a little too much junk food, the majority (59%) saying children eat a balance of healthy and junk food, and 18% saying children eat healthy food most of the time.

Some of their suggestions given for improving the children’s nutrition and eating habits during school are as follows:

  • Sell freshly cooked food such as nutritional meals
  • Prepare healthy food in a fun way, for example, offering fruit salad instead of whole fruit
  • Invite a nutritionist to the school to make pupils more aware of healthy food
  • Ban hawkers at the fence as they sell only unhealthy snacks to children before school starts

From the opinions of the tuck-shop operators, lower income group children use the tuck-shop more frequently than those at upper LSM schools, with 62% of lower LSMs using it every day versus 43% of upper LSMs. In contradiction to this, only 3% of moms at upper LSM schools and 5% of moms at lower LSM schools give their children money for the tuck-shop every day. Either the tuck-shop operators don’t have an accurate perception of how many of the children in their schools use the facility, or it’s a case of children perhaps saving their allowance and using it to buy smaller treats throughout the week..

The survey also found that despite parents recognising that tuck-shops sell unhealthy food, and requesting healthier alternatives, overall parents seem complacent with 51% saying they are satisfied with the nutrition of the tuck-shop offering and 34% being indifferent.

Furthermore, when asked what can be changed about the tuck-shop offering, a rather low 51% agreed that they should have healthier food options and 24% said that no improvements are necessary.

“Former Model C school tuck-shops need to start listening to children’s requests for healthy food and become more focused on their nutritional needs – especially when it comes to their dairy intake,” says Khan.

A previous study conducted by Nestlé South Africa showed a strong correlation between parents’ mindsets over their own eating habits and attitudes toward good nutrition and where they fall short in terms of the proper nutrition for their children. “Our Rainbow Nation Health Monitor study revealed that parents pass on their bad eating habits to their children,” says Khan.

Parents need to be more involved in what their children are eating so that they not only teach them how to make healthy food choices but to also ensure that they’re making the right choices. “Repeated exposure to a wide variety of healthy foods and good eating behaviours modelled by parents will help to modify your child’s food preferences,” she says.

Parents need to realise that the nutrition their children receive now is an investment for their future health. “We cannot stress the importance of good nutrition for children enough and the need for good nutrition for South Africa’s children remains high,” concludes Khan.


Note to editor:

A total of 17 upper LSM and 16 lower LSM former Model C primary schools throughout South Africa were audited through stock assessment and through interviews to collect the opinions of the operators. The audit happened in winter, which can account for particular food stocked and consumed.

249 online interviews were conducted with mothers, located nationally, with children aged between 6 – 12 years who attend an upper LSM former Model C primary school. The mothers had access to the internet.

142 face-to-face interviews were conducted with mothers whose children attend lower LSM former Model C primary schools nationally.

The study was conducted by Bateleur Brand Planning on behalf of Nestlé South Africa. For more details, please contact Gordon Hooper on 011 460 5100 or 083 212 2739. Please visit: for more information.

About Nestlé South Africa

Is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé Switzerland. The company was formally registered in South Africa about 98 years ago. The first Nestlé products arrived in South Africa during the 1870s, and the company’s presence in South Africa was formally entrenched on 7 July 1916 when it registered as a company. In order to meet the demands of a growing country, local production started in 1927 with the purchase of the South African Condensed Milk Company Ltd factory in Donnybrook, and the Estcourt and Franklin factories. Nestlé South Africa also services neighbouring countries – Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia. Nestlé is committed to bringing consumers tastier, healthier choices in their product offering, and will continuously strive to become the leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.