The panelists during Nestle ME’s Discussion at the 11th Corporate Social Responsibility Summit
The Nestlé Healthy Kids Program, Ajyal Salima has become the first from the Middle East to join the EPODE International Network (EIN), which encompasses over 36 programs in 24 countries working to tackle childhood obesity by promoting partnership among various entities including companies, governments, and NGOs.
Speaking at the 11th Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Summit in Dubai where the Program was presented as a case study on impactful corporate-public collaborations, EIN’s General Secretary Dr. Jean-Michel Borys said: “At EPODE our entire ethos revolves around the realization that public and private partnerships are key to implementing and sustaining community-based interventions, and we welcomed Ajyal Salima into our global family because of its alignment with our principles, and the fact that it’s already demonstrated its efficacy on the ground.”
This year’s CSR Summit reaffirmed that children’s nutrition and health is a vital issue for people in the Middle East, with 91% of respondents during an attendees polling session saying they are concerned about the matter. Eighty two percent of respondents also said partnership between governments, schools, parents, the private sector and NGOs is needed to educated children about nutrition and health.
“Health and education authorities are the gatekeepers of the Nestlé Ajyal Salima Program, as their engagement and support are essential for sustaining the initiative in schools,” said Karine Antoniades Turk, Creating Shared Value (CSV) Manager – Nestlé Middle East. “We hope that the Program will positively impact policies, and bring concerned stakeholders closer together on the long-term.”
First launched in 2010 by the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Nestlé with the support of the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, a recent study commemorating three years of Ajyal Salima’s implementation in Lebanon found nine-eleven year-olds eat vegetables twice more frequently and their general nutrition awareness increases significantly following interventions by the Program.
“We use validated instruments to measure impact and change, including measurements of knowledge, eating behavior and other obesity-related factors,” said Dr. Carla Habib Mourad, who devised the Program in her PHD thesis under the guidance of Dr. Nahla Hwalla, AUB’s Dean of Agriculture and Food Sciences Faculty. “This actually drives further engagement because all entities would like their children and students to know more, do well and be healthier.”
“We are delighted to be able to incorporate programs such as Nestlé Ajyal Salima into our schools' curriculum to promote healthy living and nutrition from an early age,” said Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, Head of the Health & Physical Education Unit - Dubai Educational Zone, Ministry of Education – a key Program partner in Dubai since 2012 along with the Dubai Health Authority; the Princess Haya Initiative for the Development of Health, Physical Education & School Sports; and Nestlé Middle East. “The biggest challenge we face is how best to ensure that our students maintain the good habits they learn through the Program.”
One of the company’s key CSV initiatives, the Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Program was launched globally in 2009 and runs in partnership with governments, academia, and NGOs in over 68 countries around the world reaching to date more than six million kids.
The regional Ajyal Salima curriculum is rolling out progressively in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia scheduled as its next destination.