- Students at the age of 8-10 at primary school,
- Teachers and all other school employees,
The Balance Nutrition education project will be run in conjunction with the Healthy Eating Education Program developed for 8-10 year-old school children. This program is aimed at helping children learn to eat healthily based upon the Healthy Eating Plate. The program’s fundamental message is; “You can eat everything as long as it is balanced. Only thing to do is to learn how to balance.” The education program includes presentations, cards, posters, worksheets and interactive games suitable for 8-10 year-old as well as an informative guide for teachers.
“Balanced Nutrition” program consists of 5 main messages. These are:
1. Around the world people choose and combine different foods to make their meals and snacks. The total amount and range of foods eaten is called the diet.
2. A healthy diet is made up from a variety and balance of different foods and drinks, as depicted in the eatwell plate.
3. Food is needed to provide energy for the body to be active and healthy.
4. A variety of food is needed in the diet because different foods contain the different substances that are needed for health. These are nutrients, water and fiber.
5. Being active and looking after yourself are important for good health.
These 5 main messages have been developed to provide a wide-ranging and innovative approach to teaching healthy eating habits. This presents a frame in which the regular and updated main messages are spread across schools. By using this frame, children can be taught that food is a source of energy and nutrients, the importance of variety and balance in a diet and that food provides a source of energy for the body which is obtained through eating certain foods. The project’s approach as a whole will ensure that children learn to apply healthy eating habits throughout their lives starting from today.
Initially in its first year (2011-2012) a pilot scheme has been implemented in 10 schools in each of 4 regions – Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir and Trabzon - selected to represent diversity in the Turkish school population. In each region, trainers have been recruited and workshops have been held to introduce the educational materials to the designated local teachers. Professor Halit Tanju Besler of Hacettepe University has taken a lead on this. Some 20,000 students have so far been reached via the pilot programme. In its second year (2012-2013) the program reached to 200 schools and 200,000 students in each of 4 regions and last year (2013-2014) the program has been extended to 10 cities Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir, Trabzon, Kahramanmaraş, Aydın, Sinop, Antalya, Kayseri, Erzurum and reached to 500 schools and 1,000,000 students and their parents. 7,500 teachers are voluntarily working for this project. And now, 2014-2015 the pragramme has been continuing in 10 cities.
Teachers have been equipped with a range of materials including a teacher’s handbook and education kit. Recent information on nutrition science has been disseminated including the latest knowledge regarding the relationship between adequate and balanced nutrition and health, the range of nutrients needed for a balanced diet, the role of different food groups, recommended portion sizes and the importance of variety. Detailed lesson plans have been provided and supporting materials include printed worksheets, brochures, interactive games and a comprehensive website open to all:
In order for the "Balanced Nutrition" Education Project to be better understood by the students, the Nutrition Plate was made into a magnet game and distributed at schools. In our visits to schools, we saw that teachers used the magnet nutrition plate game in creative and effective ways.
In order for the "Balance in Nutrition" basic nutrition education project to be better understood by students and taught in a better and more creative way by teachers, various events were planned and started to be implemented for the 2013-2014 school year. A "Teachers' Best Practices” contest was organized in order for teachers to share the messages of the "Balance in Nutrition" project with their students using their own methods, thus ensuring that the teachers fully adopted the project and that students had a better understanding of the teachings of the project. Additionally, an "I am Eating Right Painting Contest" was organized in order for students to communicate what they had learned from the "Balance in Nutrition" project and to draw them, thus getting a better understanding of the material and developing healthier habits. For results visit more information.
With the aim of keeping the public informed, our foundation publishes a Balanced Nutrition E-bulletin every three months, presenting updates of the project and scientific information obtained from landmark institutions in the areas of food, nutrition and health, for the benefit of society.
Evaluating the success of the programme
It is notoriously difficult to quantify the success of nutritional interventions other than via national food intake surveys or detailed individual comparisons. The issue is even more complex where children are the primary target for the intervention. Qualitatively the programme has been well received in all regions and has achieved the endorsement of the Turkish Ministry of Education.
In order to try to quantify the success of the intervention a ‘Nutrition Test Survey’ programme has been developed, which enables subjects to enter detailed food intake information online. This is a sophisticated food frequency questionnaire originally developed by Professor Hans Biesalski and colleagues at the University of Hohenheim and adapted for Turkish eating habits by Professor Halit Tanju Besler at the University of Hacettepe Faculty of Health Sciences Nutrition and Dietetics Department.
We are carrying out the assessment and evaluation of the project through the “Nutrition Test Survey” questionnaire, the best nutritional profile program developed in Turkey. The “Nutrition Test Survey” program, which reveals a person’s nutritional habits according to his/her consumption of various foods and beverages, as well as his/her lifestyle, is the most comprehensive questionnaire employed in our country. The program adds a point for certain nutritional habits and – based on the total number of points – offers suggestions about healthy nutrition which are specific to that person. The aim of the program is to help reveal a person’s nutritional habits based on his/her food choices. A person using this program can easily notice changes in his/her nutritional behaviors, or may start to consume certain healthy food products more often.
Before commencing the education of the children and teachers whom we reached with our “Balanced Nutrition” education project, we implemented the “Nutrition Test Survey” program – which produces a nutritional profile according to the frequency of consumption of food products and beverages – as an initial test. At the end of this year, in which the project was implemented, we will administer the same questionnaire once more to the same group of students and teachers and afterwards will state their nutritional habits by region, age group and sex, thus obtaining the most comprehensive set of nutritional profile data in Turkey.
We arranged for the evaluation of the project with the Nutrition Test Survey, the best nutrition profile program so far developed in Turkey. According to the preliminary testing and final testing held during the 2012-2013 school year, the survey of students and teachers indicated that, for foods whose consumption was expected to increase, like milk, yogurt and whole wheat bread, consumption did indeed increase, while for foods whose consumption was expected to decrease, like white bread, sugary drinks and desserts, the consumption did indeed decrease. The rate of participation in sports also increased. These results indicate that the "Balanced Nutrition" project was effective and that positive changes were observed in the nutrition habits of children who received education.