Children in Lebanese public schools are receiving excellent nutrition education according to an independent international assessment from the Cuprifère Consult agency, which has recognized the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education for excellence for its implementation of the Ajyal Salima program – rolled out in 2010 in partnership with the American University of Beirut and Nestlé Middle East.
Deemed a benchmark for programs aiming to promote healthy eating and physical activity among schoolchildren around the world, Ajyal Salima has been a part of the Ministry’s Health Education and Environmental Unit curriculum since 2014, and has so far been introduced in five countries in the region over the past eight years.
"The science-based Ajyal Salima program has clearly been a positive addition to our schools, with all the behavior and dietary changes it has brought to children, and nutrition training that it provided to teachers,” said Fadi Yarak, Director General of Education at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon. “Healthy and light school snacks and nutrition awareness in schools contribute to a positive school environment, to increased retention rates, and are a lifelong investment in the future of children.”
“As we continue to celebrate the program’s impact and to expand it in public schools, we also call on private schools to introduce it into their own curriculums.”
“Tackling the growing triple burden of malnutrition: under-nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies can only happen through more partnerships between academia, the private and public sectors on programs such as the science-based Ajyal Salima,” said Dr. Nahla Hwalla, Professor of human nutrition, and former Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences Dean at AUB.
"We aim to enable healthier and happier lives through our Nestlé for Healthier Kids initiative, under which Ajyal Salima is being implemented and expanded in the region,” said Karine Antoniades, Public Affairs and Creating Shared Value Manager at Nestlé Middle East. “From leading research in children nutrition, to product innovation and introducing healthier foods, to education and innovative nutrition and lifestyle programs and services, our global ambition is to help 50 million children lead healthier lives by 2030.”
“Over the years, our studies have shown Ajyal Salima leads children to consume two times the amount of fruits and vegetables, eat breakfast more frequently, and have about 50% less chips and 36% less sweetened drinks,” said Dr. Carla Habib Mourad, Lecturer of Nutritional Sciences at AUB, and regional scientific coordinator for Ajyal Salima.
The award particularly lauded the step-by-step partnership approach between the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, AUB, and Nestlé Middle East, as well as teacher trainings aspects, as examples to other Healthy Kids programs worldwide.
Ajyal Salima also involves parents, and has been accompanied since 2012 by a Ministry-decreed school canteen shop policy providing children with healthier food options.
Reaching over 55,000 public and private school students in Lebanon to date, Ajyal Salima targets 8-14 year-olds and is currently adding 50 more schools a year, having reached over 400 across the country so far.
“This program is a great example of the power and impact of concerted efforts between the private and public sectors,” concluded Yarak.
About Ajyal Salima
With national obesity surveys conducted by AUB showing a doubling in obesity rates and the percentage of overweight youths aged 6-19 in Lebanon growing from 20 percent in 1997 to 35 percent in 2008, the Ajyal Salima curriculum was developed by AUB under the name of “Kanz Al-Sohat” to answer specifically to Middle Eastern community issues and address nutritional habits and requirements.
Ajyal Salima entails 12 educational sessions per round, including interactive learning and hands-on activities on nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity; as well as questionnaires developed to track improvement of children from pre to post interventions.