Organisation - February 28, 2013

Tap turned off for successful nutrition classes

Government wants business world to help foot the bill.

Getting children to think about the food they eat: this was the idea behind the national educational programme about nutrition launched by Wageningen University and the Nutrition Centre in 2006. The Steunpunt Smaaklessen, a support centre for the programme was a success in no time, says manager Hante Meester. 'Schools are enthusiastic because the programmes tie in with the children's way of seeing things.' Evaluations reveal that children who have followed the ' taste lessons' know more about nutrition and food than other children. What is more, they are more willing to taste unfamiliar products and more interested in food and nutrition.
In spite of the success of the support centre, the ministries of Economic Affairs and of Public Health, Welfare and Sport will be turning off the funding tap in the autumn. For 2013, the budget - hitherto about one million euros -will be halved. From now on schools will have to pay for teaching materials, supplementary activities will be stopped and the support centre, which currently has a staff of five, will downsize. 'The government wants private parties to do their bit,' says Meester. But she thinks collaboration with the business world will run  into trouble because you soon get cases of inadmissible advertising or promotion of products.
Besides the taste lessons, the cuts will affect the European school fruit programme SchoolGruiten, which is supported by the support centre too. SchoolGruiten encourages children to eat fruit and vegetables. More than 5500 of the 7500 primary schools in the Netherlands have taken part in one of these programmes, so they have reached at least one million schoolchildren.
It is not clear how things will go from 2014. 'We have built up so much knowledge and experience as well as a broad and active network. That should not be just thrown away,' says Meester. In her view it is particularly important now to create the basis for awareness of food-related issues. People know too little about food. And one in seven children are overweight.'    

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