Improving childhood nutrition globally through gardening is a goal of the Mondelēz International Foundation (MIF). The MIF supports public-private partnerships, bringing school and community-based gardening programs to children around the world. The Foundation believes that when students learn to grow and prepare their own fruits and vegetables, a foundation for a healthy lifestyle is seeded, along with cultivating entrepreneurial, business, leadership and innovation skills.
MIF has invested in 14 nations - from rural China to the midlands of the UK - with a commitment to transform the lives of more than one million children on the planet.
In the UK, where land is limited, the Health for Life program, which develops urban gardens, operates in 107 primary schools and has impacted more than 80,000 students to date. In South Africa, 116 lower-income schools participate in the Health in Action program, a partnership of INMED South Africa and MIF. Serving 100,000 students, the program recently launched an aquaponic gardening system, teaching students new ways to grow food with limited water supply. In Brazil, 500,000 students across more than 1,000 schools help run gardens as businesses. The program has established 300 school gardens in partnership with local government agriculture departments.
Sustainable Brands spoke with Sarah Delea, President and Senior Director of Global Wellbeing and Community Involvement at the MIF; and Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Ph.D. – Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health, Director of the Office of Public Health Practice, and Director of the Global Health Concentration at the Yale School of Public Health – to hear their insights into MIF’s efforts, and how they fit with Mondelēz International’s business strategy.
How has MIF benefited from partnering with NGOs?
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Delea: A key operating principle of the Foundation is to collaborate with community-based NGOs to identify best practices and tools needed to better deliver healthy lifestyle programs on the ground. That’s why in 2013, at the International Congress of Nutrition, we brought together our NGO partners to address how we collectively can enhance the effectiveness of community-based obesity-prevention programs and better measure impact. Working with Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla from the Yale School of Public Health, we used the Program Impact Pathways (PIP) model – a cutting-edge, comprehensive and rigorous evaluation approach our partners can use to further improve evidence-based programs.
By sharing best practices, our partners learned from each other what elements in various programs were working, as well as hearing success stories from different parts of the world and what steps were needed to ramp up efforts to achieve greater impact.
More importantly, what emerged from this was a common set of global metrics that all our Foundation partners use to measure the impact of their programs:
- Percentage of participants who improve their nutrition knowledge
- Percentage of participants who increase their daily amount of physical activity or play
- Percentage of participants who report increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods
Additionally, the partners collectively identified three essential factors to ensure effective programs:
- Strong training and developmental programs for facilitators, whether they are teachers, community health promoters or NGO staff
- Commitment from local government, school administrators and community-based organizations
- Engagement of parents to reinforce program messages at home.
We published key lessons from this workshop in the September 2014 edition of the Food and Nutrition Bulletin, showing how knowledge-sharing and finding common ground on success indicators can accelerate efforts to improve community health.
Delea: As we have learned, a focus on nutrition and healthy eating comes alive when classroom instruction is tied to preparing fruits and vegetables that students grow themselves.
Through the school garden elements of MIF healthy lifestyle programs, our partners are able to see how using gardens and other educational tools can improve student and family health. It is mainly through the gardens that partners are able to measure against the global metric looking at the percentage of participants who are increasing their consumption of fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods.
Below are examples of recent results:
- In our Hope Kitchen program in China, since 2015, the percentage of students who are eating three kinds of vegetables or more each day was up 5.9 percent and up by 4.5 percent for eating fruit every day. To exemplify the impact this has in the family and community, a father of a student participating in the program shared, “After my kid worked in the school's vegetable garden … she frequently told us which foods we should eat and which are nutritious.”
- In Mexico, our Alianza por el Bienestar de la Niñez program survey showed that almost twice the number of children reported eating three or more vegetables the previous day than before the program started (52.3 percent versus 27.2 percent, respectively).
- For our Health for Life program in the UK, survey reports have shown:
- An increase in knowledge from 44 to 46 percent regarding the need for five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
- An increase from 41 to 47 percent of pupils knowing portion size for fruit and vegetables
- An increase in pupils eating five portions of fruit and vegetables from 29 to 32 percent.
How does MIF plan to take these impacts forward?
Delea: To ensure continued effectiveness of Foundation programs, we periodically bring representatives from our MIF programs together for workshops, where they can share best practices. In May 2016, we brought our NGO partners together again to see how their programs were progressing using the three global metrics, as well as to share best practices and what they’ve learned along the way in implementing the metrics.
In sharing learnings, partners saw that success of their programs is built on solid, transparent engagement, including consultations with local government officials, school principals and teachers, parents, the business community, and other key local stakeholders where the programs are running. In addition, partners recognized that successful programs rely on continual monitoring, as well as a curriculum that connects in a meaningful way with school children, their families and communities.
Dr. Pérez-Escamilla, you have said: “It was a unique endeavor for a corporate foundation to bring together a global group of NGOs to share best practices.” How can this kind of collaboration be encouraged?
Pérez-Escamilla: In my experience, what is most needed is for lessons learned from real-world and highly successful public-private partnerships to be widely shared and discussed – such as the MIF’s school-based initiatives that are supported by Mondelēz International’s global Call for Well-being platform. This dissemination effort should involve the media, private- and public-sector key stakeholder forums, as well as international conferences and related publications.
Please elaborate on one or two gardening programs that exemplify best practices/metrics for bringing partners together.
Pérez-Escamilla: The way MIF facilitated the gardening program in South Africa to benefit from the experience in Brazil illustrates the great importance of brokering experience and knowledge-sharing through public-private partnerships across the globe. Even though both gardening programs ended up being different because of the expected differences in local contexts, the fact that South Africa had access to the team running the successful program in Brazil gave them reassurances that it could be done.
South Africa also learned how to monitor their program through the MIF healthy lifestyles indicators and process evaluation tools that Brazil already had in place by the time the program in South Africa started. Both programs ended up being firmly grounded in best practices suitable for their contexts and highly participatory public-private partnerships in the communities, including diverse inputs from local authorities, offered valuable lessons to the rest of the world along the way.”
Ms. Delea: Given Mondelēz’s billion-dollar portfolio of global cookie, candy and snack brands (including Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, Toblerone, Cadbury, Marabou, Chiclets, Stride, Tang and more), are the seed-planting programs a way of balancing profit and CSR?
Delea*:* The Foundation’s programs support Mondelēz International’s broader Call for Well-being platform, which is focused on four areas where the company can have the greatest impact: sustainability, well-being snacks, communities and safety.
It is a separate legal entity from the company, and its mission to protect and enhance the well-being of future generations is distinctive from the company’s business purpose. Furthermore, the content and activities for all of the programs implemented are written and managed by the Foundation program partners. Neither the Foundation nor the company has any influence on how the programs are developed or implemented.