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Nutrition Education for Students in Nigeria

25th July, 2019

Interview with SUN Business Network Nigeria Member, Mrs Iquo Ukoh, CEO, Entod Marketing 

The SUN Business Network (SBN) Nigeria, hosted by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), works with stakeholders in the private sector to make nutritious food more aspirational, easily accessible and affordable.

Mrs Iquo Ukoh, the CEO of Entod Marketing (and member of SBN Nigeria) talks about how being a member of the SUN Business Network has influenced some of the consultancy work she has done regarding nutrition education.

SBN has influenced a lot of businesses in taking decisions and actions that enables them to look at their business activities with a nutrition lens. How has this influenced the work you do at Entod Marketing?

SBN has been instrumental to the #EatRightLiveWell campaign we recently did with a dairy company. We received an invitation from the company to come for a discussion to organise a nutrition education programme targeted at secondary schools in Lagos and Oyo state. The target was to reach out to 200 schools and 20,000 students. The pilot was carried out in July 2017 and a total of 21,000 students were reached.

Considering that the focus is shifting gradually to adolescent nutrition – How impactful was the initiative in the secondary schools you visited and what were the outcomes? 

The activities in each of the schools lasted for 1 hour. Activities were aimed at educating the students on eating well and were called “FANducation” (linked with the name of the company). These were practical sessions with a lot of interaction on how the students could vary their food choices to achieve a balanced diet. Students were divided into groups of 8-10 to plan their day’s menu on a customised tablet. The students were excited at the opportunity to use technology to plan their meals.

Going in to schools to educate students is considered a sensitive exercise – How were you able to the school’s buy-in to carry out the project in their school? 

For the public schools, we had to officially write to the Education District in charge of the schools to get permission to carry out the activities and a member of the district was present, monitoring our activities to ensure compliance.

Feedback is considered as a very good mechanism to ensure impact. What measures did you put in place to get good feedback? 

There were two trained nutritionists on the team who primarily engaged the students in the activities. One of the nutritionists trained the students using our module, while the other engaged them in games around nutrition. Students that answered questions correctly were crowned Nutrition Champions and were awarded prizes.

Considering that there are a lot of players in the nutrition space in Nigeria, was it difficult pitching to the sponsors to select your company for this project?

Not really. We got an invitation to come to the dairy company’s office for a discussion on the project. When we arrived at the offices, we realised that we had been selected based on the Nutrition Communication and Social Media Marketing workshop I facilitated for SBN Nigeria back in June 2017. They were looking for a competent hand to handle the project and did an extensive search on the internet which led them to us. So this project was basically an offshoot of the workshop I facilitated with SBN Nigeria and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

Have you had any other offers to run similar projects? 

Yes. During one of our meetings with the dairy company, we met with some officials from a multinational based in France who needed a nutritionist in their team and I was asked to do a presentation on the nutrition space in Nigeria. Since then, I have received additional requests to be part of their projects in Nigeria. We also received another invitation to participate at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation nutrition workshop which will take place soon in Paris. This connection has also been a result of the SBN workshop.

Considering the saturation of different and confusing information in the nutrition space in Nigeria – How can businesses genuinely get quick wins from promoting nutrition? 

Importantly, businesses need to understand the basics of nutrition and how nutrition can be used as a marketing tool. There is a need to communicate creatively to consumers to help them understand the nutritional benefits of the products without sounding ambiguous. Another opportunity is to use any available space on the product’s packaging to educate consuemrs in simple terms the nutritional benefits of their products.

Talking about educating consumers – Do you think consumers are becoming more aware of making the right food choices? 

Increasingly people are becoming more aware of the need to make healthy choices but with all the confusing nutritional messages out there, there is a need for consumers to find the right motivation to make good food choices.

What role do you think SBN can play in bridging these gaps? 

First is to constantly engage the manufacturers, although I feel the biggest opportunity lies with engaging the consumers. SBN could sponsor a radio programme – not necessarily a standalone programme, but short nutrition messages or tips mentioned just before the news is broadcasted every day. In addition, the SBN social media pages could be used for nutrition communication, not just to promote events or talks. Consumers should be able to come to the SBN page and take back nutritional information for daily living and making food purchase decisions.

Interview by Yetunde Olarewaju, Communications Lead, GAIN Nigeria. 

Find out more about SBN Nigeria and follow them on Twitter @SUNBizNetNG

 

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