How much food do you need to concentrate?
We have been taught that we need three meals a day in order to make it through the day and while most of us indulge in more than our fair share there is a large portion of South Africans who are living off barely enough to sustain them.
According to statistics children are being sent to school and university without having had enough food in order to concentrate through the day. In 2012, a study done by the University of Free State discovered that 10% of their students went hungry each day. While further findings from an international study revealed 59% of college students had food insecurities, or some concerns over accessing healthy food options.
Food insecurities contribute to depression, stress, trouble learning in the classroom, and poor health. Several studies show that nutrition directly affects mental capacity, for example, iron deficiency, can decrease dopamine, vitamins and minerals deficiencies are shown to inhibit concentration, while correct amounts of amino acids and carbohydrates can improve perception, intuition, and reasoning.
The University of Johannesburg launched their own Meal Support Programme in 2010 in partnership with Gift of the Givers, which provides students with two cooked balanced meals a day. This was to tackle the increasing hunger problem amongst their students. Dr. Andre van Zyl, the director of the Academic Development Centre at UJ, told ENCA that they had begun to watching for early signs of students that are in danger of dropping out such as if they attend lectures, their academic performance and whether they have enough food to sustain them.
The programme is designed to give students access to a balanced meal and includes breakfast and dinner, seven days a week which benefits day and residence students. Students that have been beneficiaries of the scheme have responded that it is helped with the academic performance as well as their university experience as a whole.
“We have noticed remarkable improvement in the self-esteem of these students and this has translated into improved academic performance,” Godrey Helani, the Director of Student Life and Governance at UJ has said about the Meal Support Programme.
Find out more about UJ’s Meal Support Programme and how you can get involved here