Promoting a balanced plate at every meal among preschoolers
The goal of the ABC of Better Me project the Novak Djokovic Foundation currently implements in three selected preschools in Belgrade, Svilajnac and Ub, is to empower children to build healthy eating habits at a preschool age and make better food choices.
This is achieved by giving them the chance to grow various fruits and vegetables in their gardens in the preschool yard, following the principles of organic agriculture. Boys and girls from the kindergarten “Kanarinac” in Kanarevo brdo, in Belgrade’s municipality of Rakovica, accompanied by their parents and teachers, couldn’t wait to start growing their own strawberries, peas, potato, chard and lettuce.
Latest research, conducted by the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Dr. Milan Jovanovic Batut“, shows that the number of obese children is constantly rising in Serbia and that half of them consume fewer fruit and vegetable servings per day than is recommended. Given the fact that preschool years are an influential time for developing balanced eating habits that can last a lifetime, through the implementation of this significant project, the Foundation intends to inform and instruct young children, their parents and teachers about the basic principles of good nutrition, food variety, food ingredients, food preparation techniques, as well as methods of planting and growing different types of fruits and vegetables.
During the first phase of the project, from March to June this year, nearly 150 children 5 and 6 years old in Belgrade, Svilajnac and Ub attended specially designed educational program. Together with their parents, teachers and other professional staff in their kindergartens they participated in various workshops and activities that encouraged their creativity and provided them plenty of opportunities to discover and explore new things, all with the aim of helping them learn about the benefits of a balanced diet and how to eat well.
“Our project team has been made of experts from Batut and the Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Preschools of Serbia, along with many educators and volunteers in order to provide additional support to institutional efforts so that preschool may become a place where children will learn about and acquire balanced eating habits during their early years”, said Maja Kremic, Head of the Donation Program Department at the Novak Djokovic Foundation. “Having in mind that declines in diet quality are constantly present across the population, through this project the Novak Djokovic Foundation wants to raise awareness about the importance of good nutrition, especially for preschoolers“, she added.
After the educational part of the project the children were able to demonstrate what they have learned by taking an active role in the process of setting up and maintaining their very first preschool organic gardens.
“We are glad for being able to engage our children in balanced eating experience in the best possible way. They were fully involved in the project – from placing the soil to make organic gardens, sowing, plant growth monitoring to workshops where they were cooking with their parents and enjoying delicious meals made of their own tasty vegetables. We talked much about the importance of proper nutrition and acquiring healthy eating habits early in life”, said Radmila Arandjelovic, director of the preschool institution “Rakovica”. ”Children also had a lot of fun making colourful fruit and vegetable paper baskets. They regularly checked their gardens and learned about plant anatomy and edible plant parts”, concluded Arandjelovic.
In the second project phase, our little gardeners will visit local organic farms where they will learn firsthand how large ecosystems function, further explore the natural world and gain better understanding of natural processes.
German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) significantly contributed to the implementation of the ABC of Better Me project, within the German-Serbian development cooperation project, as part of the Private Sector Development program in Serbia.
“We have been supporting sustainable agricultural development in the country for many years and in this respect, we gladly accepted invitation of the Novak Djokovic Foundation to join them in the implementation of the ABC of Better Me project and together promote balanced and good eating habits. On the other hand, it was the first time for us to cooperate with children and their parents. Therefore, we did our best to encourage them to think carefully about what we put into our bodies, who are the players and what happens in the farm-to-fork process, and where do we buy groceries from our dinner shopping list. Finally, we’ll connect them with local organic food producers and in this way further support development of domestic agricultural market”, explained Tanja Cupac on behalf of the German International Cooperation Agency.
The ABC of Better Me project is currently in a pilot phase and is implemented in three preschools. In addition to GIZ and Batut, Vesna Zecevic, president of the Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Preschools of Serbia and „Serbia Organica“ organisation also took part in the creation and implementation of this project. ABC of Better Me received official support from the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management as well. The project is also supported by the Delimano company and their original Nutribullet appliances.