Empowering school children to make healthy food choices.
Many children in Albania are eating too little of what they need, and there is on rising the number of children is eating too much of what they don’t need. Globalization, urbanization, inequities, humanitarian crises, and climate shocks are driving unprecedented negative changes in the nutrition situation of children around the world.
Obesity and even being overweight in childhood and adolescence can have adverse health and financial consequences throughout life.
Preventing malnutrition in all its forms, including overweight, plays an integral role in guaranteeing children’s right to food, health, and nutrition as a cornerstone of their human rights. This is key for UNICEF’s work.
In Albania data shows 28 percent of school-age children are overweight and obese; 31.4 percent in urban areas and 17 percent in rural areas; 30.8 percent in boys and 24.8 percent in girls.
Secondary analysis of existing anthropometry and Knowledge Attitude Practice survey data for school-age children indicates that children who exhibited poor knowledge about food, health, and nutrition were about 30 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than children with good knowledge. In addition, the likelihood of consuming breakfast was 30 percent higher among normal-weight children compared to their overweight/obese counterparts. The study shows that the school environment influences children’s food preferences and dietary behavior.
Public education campaigns are playing an important role to promote healthy eating habits. Improving children’s nutrition requires food systems to deliver nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets for all children is part of the UNICEF Advocacy agenda.
For this, UNICEF in Albania in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Ministry of Education and Sports, Institute of Public Health, and ACER, a national partner, implemented in four regions of Albania (Tirana, Durrës, Vlora, and Korça) important interventions to improve the regulatory framework for nutrition in school facilities. As a result of a successful intersectoral collaboration two joint orders on food standards in pre-university school settings, and banning of unhealthy food marketing in schools were signed by the Ministries of Health, Education, and Agriculture.
Several nutrition interventions that support healthy diets and good nutrition for children and adolescents are carried out. In both formal and informal education settings, nutrition education is important to ensure that children can make healthy food choices.
Empowering families, children, and young people to demand nutritious food are crucial. Various engaging activities with children and teachers were developed. 306 teachers were trained in four target regions to promote healthy feeding practices in school-age children. Models promoting healthy eating practices in school-age children were implemented in 21 schools. Around 16200 children benefited from the project activities, through interpersonal communication activities and other communication channels.
UNICEF will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Ministry of Education and Sports, and Ministry of Children and Youth, to promote healthy food environments in schools, and limit the sale and advertising of ‘junk food’ in proximity to schools and playgrounds.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/albania.