Mai e Nima: Helping Improve The Health & Well-Being of Children in Tonga

November 2019

Enhancing Food & Nutrition Education and Promoting Smallholder Farmers

Mai e Nima is a health campaign that is helping improve the health and well-being of children in Tonga IMAGE: Nishi Trading

With a reach of 47 million students in the education sector each year, the Brazilian school feeding programme is the second biggest in the world.

Its a mission the late Stephen Rogers, a long-time agriculture consultant to the Pacific, says is to contribute to the growth, development and learning capabilities of students.

“In order to support the formation of healthy habits through food and nutrition education as well as promote local farming through food purchase, menus are designed according to local taste and production.”

“The menus feature maximum values for sugar and fats and mandatory inclusion of fruits and vegetables which is managed by a nutritionist,” he said.

And it’s a mission that’s gaining a high return for the economy and the agriculture sector.

“At least 30 percent of the US$2 billion in resources transferred by government are required by law to be used to procure food from family farmers.”

“Buying food locally from family farms has led to lower school meal costs and an increase in the availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables,” he said.

The Brazilian school feeding programme is a case study of relevance to the Pacific islands.

In 2007 Tonga Health Promotion Foundation (Tonga Health) was established to act as a link between the community, NGOs, and the Government to promote health and fight non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

A successful campaign spearheaded by the foundation, Mai e Nima is helping improve the health and well-being of children.

Tonga Health CEO ‘Ofeina Filimoehala says the foundation is educating children on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables to help establish life-long healthy eating habits.

“The problem of NCDs is at a critical level in Tonga with an increasing number being affected by heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking-related illnesses.”

“The priority areas for us is in promoting physical activity, healthy eating, reducing the harm from tobacco use and alcohol misuse,” she said.

Into its 8thyear, Mai e Nima is managed by a committee under Nishi Trading with the support of the Ministry of Education, the Australian Government and Tonga Health.

Chairman, Minoru Nishi says children are setting good examples for their parents and communities.

“Since 2012 we have successfully implemented the Mai e Nima Healthy Eating programme into the curriculum of primary schools in Tonga.”

“We need to ensure our children are given an opportunity to learn about food and good eating habits so that they’re sorted for life,” he said.

The programme contains local fruits and vegetables that are reasonably priced and easily grown in Tonga.

Over the years, Nishi says the campaign has drawn wide support from both the public and private sector including NZ5+ADay, TCC, JICA, KlickEx Trading and MAFFF.

Earlier in August the students of Fua’amotu Government Primary School were the winners of the Mai e Nima Cook-Off which saw them going home with $750 pa’anga.

Event Publicist, Joanna Bourke of CocoNew – The Agency says a healthy dose of competition was evident between the four primary schools who participated in Nuku’alofa.

“The government primary schools in the Hahake region were given the opportunity to participate and of those applications received four schools made the cut; Fua’amotu, Kolonga, Fatumu and Malapo.”

“We were blown away with the energy levels and it was encouraging to see them interact with everyday local produce in innovative ways,” she said.

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