Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima program is a project implemented to promote healthy eating habits (emphasizing traditional food) among rural schoolchildren in Lebanon, to improve food security and prevent obesity. A study reporting on overweight and obesity trends in Lebanon showed a rapid increase in obesity across sex and age groups and especially children and adolescents (Nasreddine et al, 2012).
It is a multicomponent school-based intervention involving the child and his environment. It consists of classroom curriculum/activities, a food service component involving school shops, local producers and family component.
This program was scientifically developed by AUB, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, under the name – Kanz al sohha -. It is being rolled out in the community in Lebanon since 2010, and other countries in the region under the name Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima in collaboration with Nestlé Middle East.
American University of Beirut -Faculty of Agriculture - LebanonLead applicant
The American University of Beirut (AUB) is an institution of higher learning founded to provide excellence in education, to participate in the advancement of knowledge through research, and to serve the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. Chartered in New York State in 1863, the university bases its educational philosophy, standards, and practices on the American liberal arts model of higher education. The university believes deeply in and encourages freedom of thought and expression and seeks to foster tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue. Graduates will be individuals committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and leadership
Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association - LebanonInitiative partner
Nestlé Middle East FZE - United Arab EmiratesInitiative partner
Food and beverages trading
Ministry of Higher Education - LebanonInitiative partner
Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima program is a project implemented to promote healthy eating habits (emphasizing traditional food) among rural schoolchildren in Lebanon, to improve food security and prevent obesity. A study reporting on overweight and obesity trends in Lebanon showed a rapid increase in obesity across sex and age groups and especially children and adolescents (Nasreddine et al, 2012). It is a multicomponent school-based intervention involving the child and his environment. It consists of classroom curriculum/activities, a food service component involving school shops, local producers and family component. This program was scientifically developed by AUB, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, under the name – Kanz al sohha -. It is being rolled out in the community in Lebanon since 2010, and other countries in the region under the name Nestlé Healthy Kids-Ajyal Salima in collaboration with Nestlé Middle East.
Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima is a culturally sensitive program that helped to achieve a better communication between the child and his community by involving parents, the school environment and the wider community.
Healthier dietary habits and food security were being promoted by encouraging the consumption of traditional Lebanese foods produced locally as a healthy alternative to high energy dense food and drinks. The main innovation produced in this program is with regard to the school shops where healthier and traditional foods from the region were being offered to the students instead of unhealthy processed foods.
Lebanon is composed of six governorates: North, South, Bekaa, Mount Lebanon (south), Mount Lebanon (north) and the capital Beirut.
Rural regions in Lebanon are characterized by low socioeconomic classes, public schools with nominal fees, low income households, and poor to medium literacy. The program reached all communities and religious sects present in the country through schools that participated from all the Lebanese Governorates. Children that joined the program were equally divided between both genders.
Recent studies have shown that Lebanese children are shying away from traditional foods and consuming less nutrient dense foods while increasing their fat and sugar intake. This has put Lebanon in a double burden of disease with a pandemic of obesity and its associated non-communicable diseases, while the challenge of childhood malnutrition is still remaining in many regions.
Study results showed that knowledge and self-efficacy increased in intervention schools compared with control schools at post intervention. Moreover, findings highlighted reductions in children’s probability of consuming chips daily, reduction in soft drink consumption and lower chance of consuming sweet drinks. Students exposed to interventions reported consuming fruits and vegetables more than students not exposed to the Program. Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima Program helped empowering women through its food service component. School shops were more frequently managed by local women who prepared healthy traditional foods as an alternative offered to school children. Through our program, house wives were more independent, effective and productive in their communities. Moreover, the program achieved a strong communication between local regional community, parents and schools,translated through events and health fairs prepared by schools and children involving the whole community.
The main beneficiaries of the program are students aged 9-11 years who received nutrition messages to increase awareness and change their dietary habits. The program also benefited women, working at the school shop helped in increasing the family’s monthly income.
The essence of the program was as well shared with parents and the neighbourhood through family packs (pamphlets, booklets, recipes) sent with children
The local core coordination team is part of the American University of Beirut.
The team is composed of three community nutritionist and is supervised by Dr Carla Habib-Mourad, with advisory guidance from Professor Nahla Hwalla, Dean of the faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences.
The coordination team is responsible for coordination with the Ministry of Education, training of trainers (teachers and health coordinators within the Ministry Structure), providing support and follow-up to schools, monitoring implementation, and evaluation of the programme at national and regional level.Trained teachers and health educators responsible to implement Ajyal Salima program in their schools are being supervised as well by Mrs.Sonia Najem and her team (around 20 persons) from the Ministry of Higher Education.
Given Lebanon’s political and social unrest, several challenges were encountered during the program implementation. It was difficult to reach and monitor some schools due to safety issues prevailing in some regions in the country
On the other hand the team encountered difficulties with some school principals who were reluctant to implement all components of the program, In addition to the poor attendance during parents meetings in some schools.
The main environmental impact achieved was by saving energy through using local resources (fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, oil) by avoiding unnecessary transportation and at the time increasing the demand on locally produced products. In our case, ingredients needed to prepare foods for the school shops.
In Lebanon, the Ministry of higher education has adopted Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima program which is being implemented in public schools since 2010. Ajyal salima is now part of the Ministry’s Health Education mandatory projects and listed in their curriculum.
Given the particular social and cultural context of the program its applicability and transferability to other countries of the region is in progress.
The program is now rolled out in UAE, and soon in KSA and Jordan. The program’s sustainability is secured with the help of local partners (who have endorsed it) and the engagement of the community.
Nestlé Healthy Kids – Ajyal Salima program dissemination is carried out by several means:
- Press conferences: program components and results shared with the media
- Annual school events: where parents and local officials are invited
- Nutrition conferences: Results of the intervention shared with the scientific community
- Articles in peer reviewed journals.