“Póngale Vida” is a didactic proposal that will be implemented after the nutritional reform that was implemented. The Program of Technical Support to Public Institutions related to Food and Nutrition of the Nutrition School of the UCR and the project “Póngale Vida” have been key characters in the history that accompanies the recent reform to the nutritional offer developed by the Ministry of Public Education, called “Costa Rica Saludable”.
The research project “Prevention of childhood obesity through diagnosis and didactic support for food and nutrition education and physical activity in school children and children of grade I, II and III” and the social action project “Promotion of healthy lifestyles for the prevention of childhood obesity in boys and girls of the I cycle of schools in the area of attraction of the country” are the beginning of a process that ends with the Technical Support Program and “Póngale Vida”.
According to Xinia Fernández, of the Technical Support Program for Public Institutions related to Food and Nutrition, a process of technical support has been developed to strengthen capacities, especially in the administration of complementary feeding services, selection of beneficiaries, surveillance of nutritional status, impact evaluation and food and nutrition education.
For the consolidation process of this nutritional change implemented in the school dinning rooms, the Program developed diagnostic processes in more than 2000 educational centers. Likewise, it analyzed more than 150 educational centers through detailed diagnoses.
The reform aims not only to promote the consumption of fruits, water and vegetables, but also seeks to implement adequate feeding times and serve appropriate portions for each age group that lives in the school, through differentiated menus. The project is based on three key processes: food education, monitoring the status of the program and healthy eating.
According to Sonia Marta Mora, Minister of Education, this reform means an investment of ₡38 billion for Panea. In this way, during 2018 the project that proposes 5 feeding times per day will be carried out, a nutritional menu that varies according to the schedule of each student. All these elements are part of a macroproject of reform developed between the Ministry of Public Education and the Nutrition School of the University of Costa Rica.
“Póngale Vida”: role model
The current reform of the nutritional offer in school dinning rooms is the second phase of a three-step project. Mauricio Villegas, Innovation Manager of Proinnova, institution in charge of “Póngale Vida”, explained that, initially, a diagnosis was developed in the schools. Then, comes the process that is being carried out at this moment, which consists in implementing the improvements in the dining rooms; and the third step is the implementation of the didactic proposal “Póngale Vida” in classrooms and recreational spaces of the students.
Póngale Vida® is a registered trademark of the University of Costa Rica since 2013, thanks to the support and monitoring of Proinnova. Since 2016, this project is part of the macro project currently implemented by the Ministry of Public Education.
This project has covered more than 7,000 schoolchildren and preschoolers. In addition, it has trained more than 600 teachers and administrative staff, as well as 120 community leaders and more than 30 mothers and women leaders for the prevention of childhood obesity.
The fight against childhood obesity is one of the main objectives of this project. The alarm about this problem was ignited with the 2016 Weight and Height Census, developed by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Education and Unicef, where it was shown that 64% of the registered students were “normal”, 20% were overweight, 14% with obesity and 2% with malnutrition.
The serving sizes, nutritional value, quality and safety of the menu were also evaluated during 2016.
This is precisely what materialized in this nutritional reform that will affect more than 800,000 students in the country. The change in schools will be made gradually during this 2018.
Jafeth Mora Rojas