With the launch of a dedicated web site, a healthy nutrition guide for school tuck shops and the introduction of interactive classroom lessons, 2010 was a busy year for the Woolworths Making the Difference primary education programme. With big plans on the cards – including substantial expansion, both in terms of the number of schools reached as well as in the programme offerings – 2011 promises to be even busier. Already well established in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where it has been helping teachers and parents teach Grade 4 learners in some 1500 schools about nutrition, healthy living and caring for the environment for over eight years, the programme is set to expand into the Eastern Cape, an area identified by the Department of Education as a region in need of assistance with regard to lifestyle and environmental education. This expansion will see the number of schools served increase by about 15%. The Eastern Cape programme expansion is being funded by the Woolworths Trust. “We are tremendously excited to introduce the Woolworths primary education programme into the Eastern Cape. We believe that it will make a valuable contribution in terms of teaching parents and learners in the region about the importance of good nutrition and healthy living which will have an impact not only on the learners, but on their families as well,” says the programme’s manager, Pieter Twine. Several schools in the province have already begun implementing the programme material into their Grade 4 curriculum. In terms of the programme itself, 2011 will see significant changes, especially in terms of adapting it in preparation for curriculum changes to be introduced in 2012. In addition, Woolworths dieticians will be playing a greater role. “We know that South Africa experiences a range of childhood nutritional challenges from increasing obesity in certain areas to persistent malnutrition in others,” explains Twine. “It is vital that teachers, parents and children understand the importance of good nutrition and learn to make healthy choices.” In the past, in addition to the educator resource packs distributed to participating schools, the programme incorporated visits to Woolworths stores, distribution centres and suppliers. Now, in an effort to emphasise the need for learners to be educated about healthy lifestyle and food choices, registered Woolworths dieticians will be going into the classroom to explain the benefits of eating balanced meals, or eating more fibre or vegetables, for example. Another change will be that in place of parent talks at schools, Woolworths dieticians will lead store visits, which will give parents the opportunity to learn about healthy eating habits, good food options, balanced lunch boxes and smart snacking ideas. The dieticians will not only recommend foods available in store, but will also be happy to answer parents’ questions. Tours, which will be organised through the school, will be held during mornings as well as in the early evening to accommodate working parents. Another major change for the programme is its name. From this year, it will be known simply as the Woolworths Educational Programme. Twine explains, “The primary school programme, which was launched and 2003 and focuses on sharing our knowledge around good food and nutrition with teachers, parents and learners, was the first of our Making the Difference educational initiatives. In 2006 we added the Making the Difference Through Design programme at high school level, and, with plans in the works to further expand the scope of our support for education, it made sense for us to pull all these initiatives together under one umbrella.” From the outset, the programme has continually grown and adapted to meet the changing needs of teachers, parents and the Department of Education. For example, where originally educator material was provided in printed form only, with the launch of the web site, all information is available for free download and is updated on a regular basis. The web site also provides a wealth of information for parents as well as fun educational activities for learners. To find out more about the Woolworths Educational Programme for primary schools, visit www.makingthedifference.co.za/primary