Overweight and obesity are a growing threat to children’s well-being globally, largely driven by a trap of unhealthy and highly processed foods combined with a lack of physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Almost 40 million under-fives around the world are overweight, equivalent to nearly 6 per cent of this age group. Among children aged 5 to 19 years rates are significantly higher; it is estimated that more than 340 million are overweight, almost 18 per cent. Growth is most rapid in low- and middle-income countries. These are conditions that disadvantage children and can lead to a lifetime of diseases, including some of the world’s biggest killers such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease…
That is straight out of UNICEF!
Welcome to the LUNCH BOX PURITY series with Eziaha. I am supremely excited about this because I know that as a result of this series, we will get to see UNCOUNTABLE junk-free Lunch boxes.
I started this series based on divine instruction, layered on the fact that the number of overweight and obese children I was coming in contact with was increasing, and how oblivious many of the Parents and Influencers were of the impact of this on their health, both now and more importantly, in the future.
There is a lot of work to be done in sensitizing Parents, Caregivers and other Influencers on this journey and so this ‘Lunch Box Purity’ series will focus on how Educators can collaborate with Parents in such a fruitful marriage that allows us to see UNCOUNTABLE healthier Junk-free Lunch Boxes.
I am excited to delve into this and I am kicking this off with my Friend and Sister of now over 20years, Dumebi. I have seen passionate people and I can truthfully say that Dumebi is one of the most passionate about her craft that I have seen. Having been a major part of her educational career from the start, it has been beautiful to watch her success, first from being a Teacher and Librarian to now owning her own group of schools!
She does a supremely phenomenal job at Hadassah Hall and like I tell her, even I want to be enrolled in her school! I will now let you enjoy what I had the privilege of first enjoying as I pass the e-mic and turn the spotlight to Teacher Dumebi, all the way from Asaba, Delta state, Nigeria. I have my interjections in brackets after her answers.
1. Please tell us your name, where you currently teach, years on the job and how you got into the beautiful world of education.
My name is Dumebi, aka Teacher Dumebi. I work in Hadassah Hall Group of Schools as the Head of School. I have been a teacher for about 13 years and counting.
I chose education for many reasons, including childhood experiences. With the support of my mom and my wonderful secondary school teachers (Junior Secondary School to be precise), I knew I loved learning and being at school.
One person in particular inspired me to become a teacher, although I didn’t realize it at the time. She was my English teacher and Librarian at Junior secondary school, she was a relatively elderly and strict teacher but was excellent. She was passionate and active, she had a sense of humor that permeated through every topic she taught and I was left always wanting more. There is no more inspiring quality than passion in those we follow or admire, especially when they have a bucket load of it. Where that passion comes from doesn’t matter, the fact that they have it is what is important. Hearty Cheers to Mrs Edet (Zamani College, Kaduna).
So, school has always been one of my favorite things, so now it feels like a natural fit that I went into education. I didn’t start out wanting to go into education, but now, looking back, I can’t see myself anywhere else.
2. Of the many, what has been the most significant/memorable experience as an Educator?
My second year as a teacher, a student told me that she only comes to school because she’s in my class. My heart melted!
And then I had a non-verbal autistic student, with very little language start at the beginning of one year. Within six months she started saying “Good Morning Ms Dumebi” every morning and bowled me over daily with her hugs! I miss her.
3. Is it actually possible for a school to eliminate junk completely in the lunch box of our children as opposed to having a few days a week where junk is not allowed? If no, why?
I would say that while I really think it’s up to parents to decide what goes into their children’s lunch bag/box, I believe that schools do have the ability to ban the presence of junk food on their grounds, while also modelling moderation and providing reasonable guidance around junk food. When a school begins to set a standard for junk food, it shapes the messages they’re sending and how it impacts students and their families. It begins to create a school culture of healthy eating which can have lasting effects within and outside of the school even as the children become adults.
4. Have you ever been a part of a transitioning process in the school? By this, I mean where the school decides that we would have junk-free days a few times a week, or even junk-free days everyday. If yes, how was that transition process and what was the outcome like? What impact did you see in the children? And if you were to help another school transition, what are the best practices you would recommend to make it seamless?
I wouldn’t call mine a transition process for us at Hadassah Hall as it was embedded in the school policy from the start. The policy encourages staff and families to buy, prepare and consume nutritious food and drinks. We also prepare information for the school’s newsletter and other communication channels with tips on how to eat well. There is a lot of cooperation from parents with our breakfast advice that encourages the children to start their day with a balanced meal that includes some wholegrain or high fibre grains and fruits. In the school terms we slack off on this policy, we have noticed reduced learning outcomes, high detention rates, a rise in the weight measures.
(This is so powerful as quality of food can directly and hugely impact learning outcomes in our kids, and even adults. I am not even surprised at this impact which she noticed. I also love the idea behind Newsletters and other communication channels which I think all schools should have as a way to share learning best practices, among other vital information, with parents.)
5. Are there times when an Educator (you or someone else) has had to intervene per the content of a child’s lunch box, especially when you can see that the frequency and volume of junk can negatively impact on the child’s health both short term and especially long term? If yes, how did that go and/or how can an Educator help/intervene without coming across as being judgemental? How do we educate that child and/or the parent into better and healthier decisions?
A lot of times parents have been cooperative with our food policies… When we see a banned food item in the lunch bag, we don’t serve it. Period.
6. What role can parents play in supporting your efforts to promote healthy eating? How best should we communicate with parents about the importance of nutritious lunches? Do you have any practical success stories on this?
Newsletters are the most commonly used method to disseminate food and nutrition related information to parents in our school community. During our Open House induction/orientation, there is a one-hour talk about lunchboxes, what food to prepare and what not to prepare and how we will continuously guide them as we work with their children while they are in our care. This has made teacher–parent communication over lunchboxes a comfortable discussion for both groups.
7. How can the Government, Federal or state, throw their weight behind schools (in terms of policies for example) in the fight to ensure that at least within schools, child nutrition is front and centre!
What a laugh. Healthy food ain’t cheap. Public school kids are being sent to school with N50, some less. Oranges are not even N50. Let Government fix the economy, then they can focus on eliminating junk foods in school by restricting commercial marketing of low nutrition foods and beverages, as well as brands associated with unhealthy products, on school property.
But again, one can argue that the Government cannot tell people what to eat. For now, it is the least of their concerns to be very honest.
(Haha this made me laugh. It’s certainly true when it comes to our own country and Government. I recall a book I read that clearly said Government was not supposed to play National Nanny or Governess when it comes to enforcing healthy eating for our kids especially when it comes to regulating these Ads that make junk food seem like the ONLY and BEST option. Marketers and Ad agencies can knock themselves out in churning out the most creative ads, but no one forced the parents to fall for it without doing the due diligence of research before buying. I agree! While still also insisting that Government intervention can be beyond powerful as some countries/states around the world have adopted)
8. Are there ways you have successfully incorporated Nutrition education into your curriculum? Can you share any successful strategies you’ve used to make nutrition education engaging for children? This really speaks to it being incorporated into the learning curriculum as opposed to scheduled events.
For the Nursery and Elementary, we use meal times and club activity to teach students about healthy options. They enjoy showing us how they make half of their food packs to be fruits and vegetables. We also add messages about Nutrition and Healthy eating into morning announcements on School assemblies, subtly recognizing children who brought in healthy meals during the week, so the children see and hear consistent information about healthy eating across the school community. The Cooking Club teaches the children the connection between food and health. Through this aspect of hands-on-learning they are exposed to a variety of learning experiences about foods and nutrition.
(I told you that Dumebi was a WHOLE ROCKSTAR right? Ok, I didn’t use those exact words, but there you go! I loveeeeeeeet!)
9. Do you have any cool stories on how a child’s diet can directly impact learning and contribute to creating a more conducive learning environment for students? How does what a child eat for breakfast and at lunch, snacks inclusive, affect how they show up in the classroom?
I have noticed that healthy breakfast eaters have better brain function, memory and attention. In fact, one of the assessment rules is that CHILDREN MUST HAVE BREAKFAST BEFORE ANY ASSESSMENT. Parents know (and we send reminders) that if they can’t help keep up good breakfast routines during assessment seasons, the children won’t be graded. Feeding the brain is essential for good cognitive function and has been shown to help with attention, memory and recall, as well as academic performance. I like well-fed children during tests and exams. It makes a while lot of difference.
(Assessment here refers to exams and tests. I love it. We don’t want our kids starved as they write exams and we don’t also want them sloppy as their brains and bodies grapple with the effect of junk foods just before, and especially the overeating of it)
Elimination of junk food is good, fantastic even. But teaching children to have a healthy relationship with food also means teaching them moderation. Denying them things they like without ‘respectfully teaching them’ can lead to unhealthy overindulgence once they are out of your dictatorial boot.
…… The END…………
How absolutely amazing was this? And I love the ‘drop mic’ final words. Thank you so much Dumebi. This was super educative and helpful. I can already see how both schools and parents can apply the wisdom in this interview.
Next week Monday, we are featuring our second Superstar Educator. They actually don’t get to answer the same set of Q’s so get excited about reading a wide array of Q and A’s!
And please support and spread the WORD that the LUNCH BOX PURITY blog series is LIVE!
You can create your own customized flier here and then share the link to the amazing Parents and Educators in your circle.
Like I quoted from UNICEF at the beginning, the junk epidemic is real and the figures for global and even National obesity and overweight children is growing at an alarming rate, with even more alarming projection. The fight is a major one but we are joining in with this series so help us spread the WORD!
Listen, I know some of you reading this are like I NEED HELP please. I truly want to do better but I don’t even know how to start.
I got ya. I have so many resources, including free ones to help!
Like Dumebi said, educating parents is a major part of this fight. Which is why we have the NOURISH-FLOURISH Moms club.
Details about the Club can be found HERE so if you need some hand-holding, jump on board the next one. The first one is currently underway and has been hugely impactful for the Moms who joined in
All through the month of February, I am on Nigeria TV station, TVC talking Child Nutrition.
The time is 7.30am WAT and you can catch us LIVE on their YouTube channel, or watch the replay.
I was also on Channels TV program, Sunrise, spreading the Wellness Revival Fire and preaching the Gospel of Child Nutrition. My complete feature is here
I also hosted a 2-day Wellness Revival in November 2023, where we went deeeeeeep with professionals, Moms and other Influencers talking about Child Nutrition. You can catch access to both days here
Listen, as you can see and tell, I am COMPLETELY IN with this Child Nutrition message. In any and every way I am able to, I am committed to getting the message OUT. Our kids don’t have to be victims of whatever Health crisis is on the horizon. And yes, my book, WELLNESS CHAMPIONS also launches in June 2024, on my birthday so look out for that one!
Ok, see you next Monday with our Super star Educator talking LUNCH BOX PURITY!
With all my HEALTHY Love!
Wellness Revivalist and Lunch Box Purity
Healthy Moms raise Wellness Champions! Need to get healthier as a Mom? Or Mom-to-be? Our JOYFUL weight loss squads are the best place to be, especially if FOREVER RESULTS is your goal!
And if you prefer a PRIVATE coaching experience, then let’s work together to get everyone and yourself to go WOW. Send me an email at Coachesquad@gmail.com