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Using the School Feeding System as a Vehicle for Micronutrient Fortification: Experience from South Africa

van Stuijvenberg, Martha E.
biomedical research, biscuits, breads, cognition, feeding methods, hunger, morbidity, nutrient deficiencies, pregnant women, preschool children, school children, schools, soups, South Africa
School-age children are often a neglected group in terms of micronutrient interventions because they are not reached by the intervention strategies aimed at preschool children or pregnant women. School feeding, however, offers an excellent opportunity for targeted intervention in this age group, especially with regard to fortification. This paper first gives a brief overview of the school-feeding program in South Africa, and second reports on a number of trials conducted in South African schools by the South Africa Medical Research Council that examined the feasibility of using school feeding as a vehicle for micronutrient fortification. Various food items, such as biscuits, bread spread, and soup, are evaluated as potential carriers for micronutrients with positive effects on outcomes such as micronutrient status, growth, morbidity and cognitive function. For schoolchildren to realize their full mental and physical potential and to perform optimally at school, both short-term hunger and hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiencies) need to be addressed. School feeding has the potential to contribute toward alleviating both of these conditions and should therefore be fully utilized.