Breakfast provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast, that is where its name originates, breaking the fast!
Studies have shown that consumption of breakfast is one of the most important eating habits that a child should adapt before going to school.
A healthy morning meal is known to boost energy levels, sugar level and even the ability to focus and be productive.
However, despite the volume of evidence supporting breakfast intake, a recent research carried out in South Africa has revealed that many children are still missing this important meal and are going to school on an empty stomach.
The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that in South Africa, one out of five children do not eat breakfast in the morning and nearly half of them do not take lunch to school.
While there are no such figures in Kenya, local researchers have released a white paper indicating that the situation is similar if not worse in the country.
The white paper, A nutritious Breakfast to Enhance the Health and Wellbeing of Children in Kenya reveals that there are no dietary guidelines recommending or promoting breakfast in the country.
The most common foods eaten for breakfast in Kenya is bread with or without spread, porridge and fried egg only once a week.
“These breakfasts are usually not nutritious because food groups such fruits, vegetables and fats are missing. Consequently, the Kenyan breakfast will not sufficiently deliver important nutrients, such as fibre, vitamin A, C and folic acid, which increase the risk of malnutrition,” the white paper says.
One of the white paper authors, Judith Kimiywe, a lecturer at Kenyatta University, Food and Nutrition department, says that recent studies show that the average breakfast of most Kenyan families is deficient of essential nutrients.
Time constraint, limited knowledge on importance of breakfast and inability to embrace variety of foods for breakfast are some of the reasons cited for inadequate breakfast adding that nine out of 10 children in Kenya do not have access to a balanced diet.
“To achieve this, we need a behavioural change campaign to raise awareness on the importance of a good breakfast and the role it can play in alleviating malnutrition and promotion of a child’s wellbeing,” she said.
To help address this need, Unilever Kenya, through the Good Breakfast Alliance Programme, has launched phase 2 of the Good Breakfast campaign that promotes good breakfast among Kenyan families.
Bosire Otieno, a medical doctor and the Kenya Medical Association director says most children skip the morning meal yet it is the most essential for growth and also mental performance.
“A healthy breakfast will provide much needed nourishment for better academic performance. Children who do not have breakfast will be more tired, irritable and energyless throughout the day. Loss of energy and vitality means heightened aggression and hyperactivity that may eventually lead to academic failures,” she said.
Through the Schools Programme, Unilever aims to reach five million school-going children by 2020; last year Blue Band was able to reach 1.25 million children in 510 schools through an interactive and fun behaviour change nutrition education programme.
The Unilever Marketing Director, Antony Esyalai says this year the programme has set out to reach 1.5 million children across 600 schools.