Feb 6, 2014, updated February 2014
The Healthy Kids Programme in Greece was launched to teach schoolchildren about making healthier and balanced food choices.
Greece has been cited as having the highest obesity rate in Europe, according to the scientific journal PLoS-ONE .
Its research shows that about 20% children aged ten to 12 in the country are obese and 30% are overweight – the highest out of seven countries surveyed on the continent.
A study by the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, Volume 49, Issue 9 , also indicated that there is a higher prevalence of obesity in Greek children living in rural areas despite increased levels of physical activity.
To combat this urgent health issue, Nestlé launched its Healthy Kids Programme in Greece in 2009 to educate schoolchildren aged eight to 12 on making balanced food choices.
The programme uses age and development-appropriate information, learning strategies, teaching methods and educational materials.
It is active across the country in the Greek cities of Attiki, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Evoia and Viotia.
The programme includes Body Mass Index measurements, evaluation of nutritional habits and physical activity through questionnaires, and provides personal feedback to parents through personalised reports and informative material.
In parallel, a smaller scale pilot focuses on nutritional education, with topics such as: the food groups, nutritious choices from each food group and how it affects the functions of the body, the importance of meal frequency, and making a healthy plate.
In 2012, Nestlé worked with the Harokopio University of Athens in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to reach out to a whole school grade through the initiative. About 60,000 children aged eight across the country benefited from the programme.
Since 2013, the company adopted a three-year Healthy Kids Programme module focusing on the impact of the financial crisis on obesity, and the nutritional habits and physical activity of children. The three-year programme is reaching about 30,000 children annually in Greece.
It is being evaluated through questionnaires completed by participating children by examining their knowledge on the food groups, the ability to distinguish nutritious and less nutritious food choices from the food groups, and identifying the functions of foods in the body.
Findings of the educational pilot in 2013 showed that at the end of the first year of the three-year module, over 80% of children were able to identify foods from the fruits and vegetables group, in comparison to 74% at the start.
More than 40% were able to distinguish the grains group, compared to 27% at the beginning of the programme.
Value to Society
To date, about 100,000 schoolchildren in Greece have benefited from the Healthy Kids Programme.
Value to Nestlé
It establishes a global competitive advantage and demonstrates Nestlé’s commitment to address health issues globally; and has a positive impact on Nestlé’s reputation as a leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.
Nestlé will continue to assess the impact of the crisis on obesity rates and the nutritional habits of children in Greece as a base for future action.
In collaboration with the Harokopio University of Athens, the three-year module will focus on affordable alternatives for balanced nutrition, as well as ideal portion size, better meal management and less food waste.
The company will leverage other current partnerships with the aim of exploring creative ways to expand the programme’s approach.