Nourishing Young Minds: Nokuphila’s Food Garden Cultivates Hope

Nourishing Young Minds: Nokuphila’s Food Garden Cultivates Hope

On World Food Day, as we consider the issue of food insecurity, we simply cannot ignore the reality that continues to follow us in South Africa. Despite having an abundance of resources, too many families continue to go hungry every day.

In South Africa during 2021, it is speculated that as many as 11.6% of the population  experience hunger. Additionally, out of the 17,9 million households, approximately 15% percent have inadequate access to food.

Although this is a worrying statistic, it’s heartening to know that organisations like The Love Trust are playing their part to mitigate food insecurity.

Powering a healthy mind

Nutrition is a crucial element of a child’s early development, but apart from growing a child’s physical self, it plays a key role in concentration and learning. Imagine trying to learn whilst ignoring hunger pains, or fighting to stay awake?

We have all heard of the term ‘brain food’, and at Nokuphila, we serve just that.

With the recent addition of our fresh food garden, we aim to grow our Nutrition Programme holistically to supply our on-site kitchen with fresh ingredients in a sustainable way.   

Currently, Nokuphila’s food garden has a lemon tree, cabbage varieties, lettuce, beetroot, spinach, parsley, celery, green onion and a variety of fresh herbs. Our school plans to plant and adjust the menus according to seasonal availability to ensure minimal wastage, and maximum cost efficiency.

Beyond the garden

While the fresh food garden is a new addition, the schools Nutrition Programme has been running successfully for many years thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff and wonderfully generous donors. Our food pantry is part of the Nutrition Programme and consists of basic food items with a long shelf-life such as sugar, canned foods, maize, cooking oil, tea and rice. 

Our food pantry stock levels are all overseen by staff such as our  social worker, housekeeper, procurement officer and administrative staff, while our garden is tended to by three devoted staff members. The on-site kitchen staff cooks all the meals from scratch, preparing two meals and providing a snack for each child daily.

Nokuphila has taken extreme care to ensure our food pantry has stock available over school holidays, to allow for learners’ families that qualify for nutritional support. This effort ensures that our learners can continue being nourished, even during school breaks.

Sowing seeds of change through each meal

Nokuphila provides breakfast and lunch daily, as well as a nutritious snack, to each of our learners.  

To give you an example of the magnitude of these efforts, here are the figures:

In the month of September, where the number of active school days was 17, each child received 51 meals in the month. As at the end of September 2023, the total number of meals received per child for the year so far stands at 363 meals.

The school feeds a grand total of ­­­­­357 students every active school day.

The joy of homegrown goodness

Although we can’t deny that eating is simply necessary, it’s also important to remember the joy one gets from eating a delicious meal, and the fact that food forms an important element of celebrations. 

At Nokuphila, Thursdays are a weekly celebratory day for our learners, as on this day they get served their favourite meal: boerewors with pap and gravy. A proudly South African meal!

Beyond simply being given food, the learners at our school are also being offered the opportunity to learn about our fresh food garden, with one class volunteering to tend to the garden on a weekly basis.

Being given the chance to learn how to grow your own nutritious food in a cost-effective sustainable way is invaluable.  

Spinach grown in the garden at The Nokuphila School

Healthy meals that beat the budget

As a not-for-profit organisation, The Love Trust is conscious of running costs. With this in mind, it’s important to know that great tasting, nutritious food can be affordable too.  

The experts at The Nokuphila School share smart meal tips:

  • Pap (Maize porridge): A South African staple – pap is a great source of healthy energy fuelling carbohydrates.
  • Samp and Beans: Corn and beans are rich in fibre, and muscle building protein.
  • Vegetable Stew: A seasonal mix of vegetables can be paired with rice or whole grain bread for a nutrient rich dish.  
  • Fruit Salad: Fresh seasonal fruits make for a great healthy dessert option.
  • Yoghurt and Berries: Easy to grab-and-go, yoghurt provides calcium, protein and gut-loving probiotics.
  • Whole-Grain: Wherever possible, opt for whole-grain. This applies to bread, rolls, cereal and other grain choices. Less refined food sources provide a higher fibre content, keeping you feeling full for longer.

A growing impact

The Nokuphila Nutrition Programme was originally started to ensure that our learners got access to nutritious meals. Our overarching aim was to support and enhance our learners well-being; giving them a better chance at achieving academic success.

Programmes like this one go a long way in reducing hunger-related stress and illnesses, and to bridge the divide that inequity and poverty has created. This World Food Day, spare a thought for those that need our upliftment, and together let’s work towards a future with more food security for all.