In South Africa, half of all new HIV-AIDS infections is amongst teenagers. As a part of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country, staff of Family Care Foundation Project Partner “Matumaini” (Project “Hope”) holds AIDS awareness seminars for the students of many rural area schools around Durban.
In addition to education, there is little debate as to the integral part that nutrition plays in HIV prevention, treatment and mitigation. Matumaini undertakes feeding programs in schools, orphanages and clinics where a high percentage of the children are impacted by AIDS, delivering healthy food on a regular basis (fruit, vegetables, meat, and bread.)
In one township school, out of 320 students only 30 are being raised by both parents. So more than 90% of the students represented have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS, and are being brought up by grandmothers or relatives. Due to their extreme poverty, many of these children arrive at school on empty stomachs, so even providing a low-cost, balanced meal of two bananas, cereal and milk can do wonders, both physically and academically.
Matumaini research indicates that after only 3 months of this sort of enhanced diet, the grades of well over 80% of the children improved dramatically, not to speak of their school attendance. This is attributed to the simple fact that with some food in their stomachs they can actually concentrate on what the teacher is teaching, rather than the emptiness in their mid-sections. (Yet another benefit is that many anti-retro viral drugs they take to maintain their health need to be taken with food in the stomach.) Total cost of program: $15,000 to feed 320 students for a school year.
Matumaini also assists rural area schools in becoming self-sufficient as far as food is concerned, by training them to grow and harvest high nutrition vegetables like spinach. The spinach is added to the daily soup ration customarily fed to school children in primary and secondary schools. Crops grown in vegetable tunnels are largely protected against climatic extremes, as well as free from insect attack and other destructive blight. Most importantly, the yield can be 8 times more than it would be in an open plot. Each food tunnel costs $270 and each set of seedlings provides 12-14 harvests, after which the only further investment is the cost of new seedlings.