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Nestlé Tuck-shop truth South African children given healthy packed lunches but not exercising enough

South African children given healthy packed lunches but not exercising enough

In order to understand children’s eating habits at school and some of the factors that influence these, Nestlé South Africa recently commissioned its second Tuck-Shop Truths survey to establish what primary school tuck-shops are offering, the opinions of their operators, as well as what parents are feeding their children and what their opinions are of their children’s nutritional reality.

The study was conducted amongst numerous private primary schools and upper and middle class former Model C primary schools across South Africa, as well as with mothers of children who attended these schools.

“When reviewing the data, it was especially interesting to compare the findings from moms in the upper and middle income groups and draw some conclusions from these,” says Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness manager at Nestlé South Africa. She highlights some of these below:

The school day is long for many learners, with 60% of children waking up between 5:30 and 6:30 and 25% of primary school pupils getting home between 16:30 and 17:30. Of great concern is that 25% of lower LSM parents say their children don’t receive anything for lunch and that 14% of lower LSM and 7% of upper LSM primary school children don’t eat breakfast at all.

Seventy-nine percent of upper LSM and 63% of lower LSM learners receive packed lunchboxes to school every day. Overall, parents are doing well, with sandwiches; fruit; yoghurt and fresh fruit juice being the most popular lunchbox items. This does vary according to income group though, with upper LSM children enjoying variety and healthier options like cheese, dried fruit and biltong. Fruit is a luxury too, with 78% of upper LSM children versus only 33% of lower LSM children receiving fruit for a snack or lunch at school.

The healthy lunchbox choices could be influenced by many schools placing restrictions on what parents can pack in lunchboxes, with sweets being prohibited. The number of schools who do place restrictions on sweets in lunchboxes decreases by income group though, at 42% of private schools, 37% of upper LSM and 23% of lower LSM schools.

According to parents, tuck-shop usage is low, with only 3% of moms at upper LSM schools and 5% of moms at lower LSM schools giving their children money for the tuck-shop every day. The tuck-shop operators tell a different story though, believing that 43% of upper LSM and 62% of lower LSM learners use their facility every day. The discrepancy could be as a result of children perhaps using pocket money for the tuck-shop and not receiving it from their parents specifically for tuck-shop use.

When it comes to supper-time at home, the survey revealed that South African’s love their starch and that children typically receive a well-rounded meal. While chicken, vegetables, rice, pasta, potatoes and red meat are the most popular items on dinner plates across both income groups, lower LSMs prioritise nutritional starches with potato being the most popular, followed by white rice and then pasta.

Overall, parents don’t seem too concerned about their children’s eating habits. Fifty-one percent rate these as healthy, while 34% were indifferent, saying they’re neither healthy nor unhealthy. The top reason for their response, at 31%, was that their child has a balanced diet. Not eating enough fruit (15%) and vegetables (11%) were recognised as reasons for their child’s diet not being as healthy as it should be.

It’s interesting to see that upper LSM children are participating more in sport than lower LSM children, with 83% and 27% respectively, presumably due to household responsibilities and lack of transport options available.

“It is vital for children to engage in physical activity. Apart from the developmental benefits and social skills learnt through engaging in sport, balancing calorie input versus output is critical for managing weight and preventing obesity,” says Khan.

South Africans need to become more serious about nutrition and exercise across all income groups. “By ensuring proper nutrition for children and educating them about healthy eating habits, parents are investing in their future, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for them, and putting them on autopilot on their way to lasting wellness,” concludes Khan.


Note to editor:

A total of 16 private primary schools, 17 upper LSM former Model C primary schools and 16 lower LSM (middle class) former Model C primary schools in 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 being 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, and 282 from private primary schools. 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.