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Chapter 2
Food for living

Background Information for Chapter 2

Most Zambians’ normal diet is built around a single staple food such as cassava, maize or sorghum. These starchy staples contain a lot of carbohydrates and are therefore a good source of energy. However, they are deficient in certain proteins that are necessary for normal child growth and mental development. Cassava especially contains very little protein.

Animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, flying ants and caterpillars contain these proteins. Including these products in a mostly starchy diet will help to correct the situation. The missing proteins can also be supplied from plants such as beans, cowpeas, groundnuts, soybeans and bambara nuts; parents/guardians and children need to understand that these foods help children grow.

The body also needs vegetables and fruits for it to be able to fight disease, be strong and have enough good blood. Fruits and vegetables should be valued more and seen as an important part of the diet. To make vegetables more tasty and to give more energy and full food value, it is important to add red palm oil, groundnuts, or vegetable oil to vegetable relish foods.

For many children in Zambia one of the problems is that they do not eat often enough. Children in particular need to eat often during the day, because they are growing and need a lot of energy, and because their stomachs are small. Children who come to school without breakfast, for example, will be tired and will not be able to learn well. Energy levels need to be maintained with three meals a day, and healthy snacks in between.

The main messages to the pupils, and to their parents/guardians, are that children need to eat a variety of foods every day to be healthy. They should not only eat starchy foods such as cassava and maize but should appreciate the importance of all the other foods and try to include them in their diet. They should also eat often.


This chapter goes through the main functions of food and tries to build up clear food values, showing the importance of protein foods, fruit and vegetables, the value of adding red palm oil, groundnut or fat to relishes, and the need for frequent eating. The terms protein, carbohydrate etc. are not introduced here; we simply try to establish the different functions of food. In each lesson there is also a simple behaviour message, which is repeated and reinforced in Chapter 3. All the lessons build up to the main message of variety in the diet.


Lesson 1

establishes that food gives energy, and promotes breakfast/snacks.


Lesson 2

explains about food for growth and promotes high-protein foods every day.


Lesson 3

shows the value of fruit and vegetables in general.


Lesson 4

concentrates on "special" foods which keep the body healthy, in particular vitamin A foods and foods containing iron.


Background information for teachers

Energy is needed in the body if it is to do any work. It is needed in movement, breathing and in any activity (physical and mental). It is required for a healthy body.

All foods make it possible for us to play and work - they provide energy. However, some foods like maize, cassava, sugar, honey, millet, sorghum, sweet potatoes, palm oil, cooking oil and fat provide more energy. In Zambia the main sources of energy are maize and cassava, our staple foods.

Converting food to energy, and converting energy to activity, are quite abstract ideas and difficult for young children to grasp. In this lesson, the idea of energy is introduced by making the contrast between tired and full of energy, which children can understand from their own experience.

There is generally no need to persuade children to eat more starchy staple food. But it is important that they should eat frequently, especially in the morning before school, and during the day. Very often children (and also their parents/guardians and teachers) do not realize that tiredness and inattention are due to short-term hunger. This is the behaviour message.


Pupils should be able to:

Time: 30 minutes

Teaching/learning aids

Feedback on homework

Ask the class to guess what are the foods family members like most. Write up the guesses. Ask pupils to hold up their hands if they had these foods in their homework enquiry, and say what other foods were popular. Make some comment about priorities - e.g. Not many people like vegetables, Everyone likes fish a lot. Ask why pupils think people like these foods. This leads in to the theme of Chapter 2.


Take three groups of three pupils aside and explain that when you give the word they should do these things:

Make sure all three groups know what they have to do.


a) Ask the first two groups to do their acts. Ask the class what is the difference? (One group is very tired; the other is full of energy). Question the two groups - How do they feel? Why?

b) Ask the class how we can give the "tired" pupils energy? (give them food)

c) Ask the third group to take food (real or imaginary) to the first group, say why they are giving them the food, and make them eat it.

d) Tell the class we have to wait a while to see the effect of the food (leave the "tired" group looking tired). MEANWHILE we will look at the book.

Activity 7

a) Children look at the pictures and talk about what is happening. Emphasize that people in the picture need energy to do the things they are doing. The energy comes from food. These people need to eat enough food every day in order to do these activities.

b) Ask pupils to show you some "energy" by doing other activities (not TOO energetic!). Emphasize that learning is also active and also needs energy.

c) Ask the questions under the pictures (Can you run if you have no energy? etc.) Lead up to What gives you energy? (Food).

d) Go back to the "tired" group. Recap: Were you tired? Did you have no energy? Did you eat? Do you feel stronger now? Can you dance? Can you sing? Can you run and play? Show us! What gave you energy? (the group demonstrates).


a) Say you will read the first part of the sentence and they have to finish it. Ask them to look at the text in preparation for this. Then read out the first parts of the first four sentences so pupils can chorus the second part - e.g. You need food - ? (to play!) You need food - ? (to run!) etc.

b) Ask pupils to find the word in the text in capitals/big letters (OFTEN). Why is it in capitals? (because it is important). Read the sentence aloud, stressing the word OFTEN, and ask pupils to do the same, collectively or individually.

c) What does OFTEN mean? How many times a day? Collect children’s ideas. Lead them to the conclusion that they need to eat often during the day - if possible, five times (morning meal, snack, lunch, afternoon snack, evening meal). Especially important for school are breakfast, and a snack in the morning. These will help them to study well - because they give energy.

Ask yourself

Demonstrate asking and answering these questions - e.g. Did I eat food before coming to school? - Yes, I did. I had....... and.... I need to have breakfast so I can work through the morning. Now what about you?

Ask children to ask themselves the same questions and answer them mentally. Give them time to do this for themselves. Then ask them to copy and complete the table in the box. Walk round and look at the answers. Show interest but don’t interfere with the content - let the children feel that this is their own.

N.B. If you see that a lot of children are not having breakfast, then you should give this subject a lot of attention in Chapter 3. It is also a good idea to bring up the question at a PTA/PCSC meeting, explain how important breakfast is to schoolchildren for maintaining energy levels and discuss how to ensure that children get breakfast.


Ask for volunteers to write the Remember messages on pieces of paper or cardboard, display them in the classroom and read them aloud. On the opposite side write the title of the lesson. Volunteers choose one message and explain it - What does Eat for energy mean? Why eat before coming to school? Store the message, or display it permanently, and do the same with the others.


Pupils ask their families to give them food to eat before coming to school, and food to bring to school.

Discuss this homework with pupils. Ask them if they are always full of energy during the morning at school, or if they are hungry and tired sometimes. Can they have breakfast? Can they bring food to school? Can they bring food for others?

If many children are unable to bring food to school, teachers should try to make sure that food is available for all (e.g. donated from a local supermarket, church, or provided by families).

N.B. This message is picked up again in the lessons on breakfast and snacks in Chapter 3.


Background information for teachers

Food is needed by the body for physical growth, brain development, repair and healing. In particular, protein is needed for growth and repair. In Zambia there is a strong dependence on maize and cassava meal. Maize and cassava meal by themselves (especially cassava meal) do not have enough protein for a good diet, and especially not enough for growing children. As a result, children’s bodies and brains do not have the chance to grow properly. Often this is not even noticed - people just think the children are thin and small.

For a good diet, maize meal and cassava meal need to be eaten with foods that are rich in protein, for example beans, cowpeas, groundnuts, bambara nuts, soya beans, meat, fish, caterpillars, eggs and milk.

The message for children and their families is that children need to eat several of these protein-rich foods every day if they are to grow properly. At meal-times, children must get as much fish or meat as adults.

Since many high-protein foods are expensive, and some are only eaten on ceremonial occasions (e.g. chicken) it is important for families to know that some cheaper or more readily available foods also contain a lot of protein - for example, beans, cowpeas, soya beans, groundnuts, bambara nuts, kapenta, eggs, caterpillars. They should learn to value these foods highly.


Pupils should be able to:

Time: 30 minutes

Teaching and learning aids

Feedback on homework

Find out which children brought food from their homes. Let the children share the foods with those who did not bring food during break.


Show pictures of the two children. Say they are the same age and are from two families you know. Give them names. Ask pupils to tell you how they are different from each other.

Tell a story about what happened to these children. One family fed its baby on cassava and maize meal porridge (a lot). The other fed its baby on cassava and maize meal porridge (with red palm oil), mashed fish and meat, vegetables and fruit.

Ask which child they think was which. Find out why they think this.

Activity 8

The class discuss the pictures and complete the table. Then they discuss the important question What makes them grow?


Lead in to the Reading by asking So what does a girl need to grow into a big girl? Pupils suggest answers, then read the text silently to confirm.

Activity 9

Explain that some foods are very good for growing. Ask if children know what they are. Ask about a few foods (including some which are NOT high-protein foods) - e.g. What about nshima? Sugar? Tomatoes? Groundnuts? Meat? Beans? Cassava? This will show if children have the right idea.

Say that the pictures show foods which are good for growing. See if children can identify the pictures. Tell pupils they should have some of these foods every day.

N.B. Cowpeas, beans and groundnuts are good sources of protein and relatively cheap, but are often not valued as much as fish and meat. Kapenta is as good as (probably better than) big fish. Do your best to praise these foods and show how much you enjoy eating them.

Ask pupils if they think eggs are good. Some families think that it is dangerous for children to eat too many eggs - for example, that it gives them yellow hair or makes the girls infertile. Take this opportunity to promote eggs. An egg a day will give children many important nutrients.

Ask yourself

Demonstrate asking yourself these questions - e.g. Did I eat some of these foods yesterday? Yes, I ate beans - I really like beans. And some fish. I usually have fish every day, and often groundnuts too. I love relish with pounded groundnuts. What about you? Ask children to ask themselves the same questions and answer for themselves. When they are ready, they copy the table in their books and complete it.

Go round looking at what they write. Be encouraging, but don’t interfere with the content. This will help you to get some idea of how much protein-rich food children are getting. If it seems to be lacking in their diet, you will need to concentrate on this in Chapter 3, and also if possible bring up the question at the PTA, PCSC or other meetings with parents and guardians.


Ask for a volunteer to write the Remember message on a piece of paper, display it in the classroom and read it aloud. On the opposite side write the title of the lesson. Ask pupils to give some examples. Ask pupils what they will do to make sure they eat good "growing food" every day - a fish, an egg, groundnuts, beans. Children take the message home and read it to their families.


For homework, let pupils ask their families what food a baby needs, and what foods are good for growing.


Background information for teachers

All food has vitamins and minerals which are very important for growth, for the proper working of the body and for protecting the body against sickness. Most fruits and vegetables have valuable vitamins and minerals and some are particularly rich - for example, ripe mango, ripe paw-paw, yellow or orange sweet potatoes, guava, orange, dark yellow or orange pumpkin, tomatoes, green peppers, and dark green leafy vegetables in general. Yellow, orange and dark green (leaves) are the key colours.

However, many people believe that fruit and vegetables do not contribute anything important to the diet and that nshima with fish or meat is a complete meal. Some families even look down upon vegetables as food for the poor who cannot afford fish and meat. Others wrongly consider local vegetables inferior in value to exotic ones. In some Zambian families fruits are not considered part of a meal or an essential element of the general diet.

The message for the diet is that fruit and vegetables are very good for health, and should be part of every day’s eating. Children should have enough vegetable relish (ideally with groundnut or red palm oil) with their nshima (as much as an adult) and have vegetables and fruit for snacks as well. Help them to have positive attitudes towards vegetables and fruits, especially local ones.


Pupils should be able to:

Teaching/learning aids

Feedback on homework

Ask about homework - What do babies need to eat?[3] What foods are good for growing? Get pupils to call out what their families told them. Write up on the board the high-protein foods they mention.

Ask them to read the list on the board aloud. Say that all foods are good for growing, but the ones on the board are especially good. Ask if they had any of these "growing foods" for breakfast today - or yesterday? Then they will grow well.

(N.B. It is dangerous if the school appears to conflict with families’ ideas: it can create confusion in the children and resentment in their families. The approach here tries to avoid such conflict - all answers are good, but some are very good!).


To revise the lessons so far, ask children what food they eat most (probably nshima or maize). Is it enough to eat just nshima/maize? What else should they eat? (They should say that they need "growing foods" as well.)


Ask pupils to look at the picture and say what is missing from the meal (a vegetable relish). Ask pupils to give some examples of fruits and vegetables so as to recall the food groups established in Chapter 1 Lesson 3.

Activity 11

Pupils say the names of all the fruits and vegetables they know. Also ask for names of dark green leafy vegetables, and red/orange/yellow fruits and vegetables. Call out a few names (e.g. chibwabwa, mango) so children can say what they are (a dark green leafy vegetable, an orange fruit).

Activity 12

Using the pictures and the questions, find out which are pupils’ favourite vegetables and tell them your own. Praise all strong preferences; try to show your appreciation of the taste and goodness of these foods. Commend any mention of eating vegetables with oil, especially red palm oil.

Ask about fruits in the same way.

What do they think about fruit and vegetables?. Are they important?


Tell pupils there is a number in the Reading and ask them to find it (three).

Ask three what? (three fruits and vegetables). What about three fruits and vegetables? (We should eat three different fruits and vegetables every day).[4]

Ask the class if they do this. What fruits/vegetables would they like to eat more?

Ask yourself

Demonstrate asking yourself the Ask yourself questions - for example Well, the fruits I like most are.... and vegetables I like most are.... Yesterday I had....... - I should eat more fruit and vegetables. What about you? Give children time to ask themselves the questions and answer them mentally, then let them copy and complete the table in their books.

N.B. Since there are a lot of questions, pupils can copy the questions in class and then write the answers for homework.


Ask for a volunteer to write the Remember message on a piece of paper, display it in the classroom and read it out. On the opposite side write the title of the lesson. Ask the pupils to give examples. Let them tell you what they will do to teach the younger children the message. Ask them what they themselves will do to fulfil the Remember message in their lives.


For homework, let children ask their families if they can include vegetables and fruits in their meals everyday. N.B. This may be difficult during the dry season, when fruits and vegetables are not as plentiful. It will be good if children begin to recognise these seasonal variations.


Background information for teachers

Many vitamins and minerals are needed in the body. Here we concentrate on two, vitamin A and iron, which represent major nutritional problems in Zambia.

VITAMIN A is very important in a diet. It helps people to see clearly at night, prevents blindness, protects people from diseases and helps them to recover quickly. It also helps to make strong healthy skin, hair and teeth.

Vitamin A is found in some animal foods (milk, liver, eggs, whole fish, e.g. kapenta or chisense), in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (pumpkin, orange-coloured sweet potatoes, ripe mangoes and ripe paw-paw) and in dark green leafy vegetables. These vegetables should be cooked and eaten with oil, because vegetable vitamin A needs fat to be absorbed by the body. Red palm oil is especially good because it is also very rich in vitamin A; also very good are groundnuts.

IRON makes the blood red, which means it can carry enough oxygen around the body. Oxygen is needed for the body to produce energy and for people to be healthy and active. Without enough iron, people become anaemic, their blood becomes "thin". People with anaemia often look pale, especially their eyelids. They feel weak and tired, and are more likely to get sick. Pregnant women are often at risk. Many children are anaemic as a consequence of malaria (malaria destroys red blood cells). Anaemic children will not perform well at school.

Iron deficiency can easily be prevented. Iron is plentiful in many local foods, e.g. dark green leafy vegetables, liver and eggs, beans and cowpeas, chikanda, dried kapenta or chisense, dried caterpillars. Very rich in iron are pumpkin seeds and grasshoppers. To absorb iron from vegetables, the body also needs vitamin C as part of the same meal. So meals with green leafy vegetables, beans and cowpeas should always be followed with a piece of fruit rich in vitamin C, e.g. guava, orange, mango (especially unripe) and paw-paw, or a drink made from fresh limes/lemons with sugar.

Growing children often do not get enough vitamin A and iron. The messages for the diet are to eat kapenta, chisense or eggs, and plenty of fruit and vegetables every day - especially dark green leafy vegetables, red and yellow vegetables and fruits, cowpeas and beans; and to add red palm oil or groundnuts to vegetable relish.


Pupils should be able to:

Time: 30 minutes

Teaching/learning aids

Guava, paw-paw, mango
Red/orange sweet potato, tomato
Sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, pumpkin leaves
Pumpkin seeds, cowpeas, beans
Red palm oil, margarine
Kapenta/chisense, dried grasshoppers, eggs, milk

Put all these on a tray and cover them with a cloth or newspaper.


Play Riddle again. Describe a fruit/vegetable-say if it is a fruit or a vegetable, describe its colour and shape and how it is eaten and show your feelings about it. Pupils guess what it is. Then ask volunteers to do the same, individually or in pairs.

Feedback on homework

Check that children have written answers to the Ask yourself questions. Praise anybody who ate three fruits or vegetables (or more) and ask what they were.


Pupils look at the picture and say what they think Chiko eats to keep her well. Try to find out what they really think. Since ALL foods protect the body, all answers are good-but some answers are very good!

When pupils can’t think of any more, show them the foods on the tray and say that these foods are special for keeping people well. (If you have not been able to bring in many foods, read out the list in Teaching Aids above.)

Ask them which foods (on the tray or list) they did not mention.

Activity 13

ALTERNATIVE 1: If you have most of the foods on your tray/desk, use Kim’s Game to help children memorize these special foods. Put children in groups. Tell them how many foods there are on the tray/desk. Let them look at them for just one minute. Then cover up the tray, and ask if they can remember all the foods. After a few minutes’ group work, call on one group to report, then uncover the tray so they can all check.

ALTERNATIVE 2: If you don’t have many foods in the classroom, pupils can imagine they "are" the foods, or "have" them, like this:

a) Assign all the "special foods" to particular pupils or pairs of pupils (or threes if your class is very big) - e.g. You are a mango (or You have a mango); You are cassava leaves etc. Tell pupils they have to remember them all.

b) Ask all the "green leafy vegetables" to stand up, say what they are and sit down, then all the orange/red/yellow fruits, then the orange/red/yellow vegetables, then the animal foods, then the cowpeas, beans and seeds, then the fats.

c) Check that pupils can remember who is/has what - What is he? What is she?

d) Ask several pupils to say which of these foods they eat often. As they say the names, the "foods" stand up and remain standing. Look at the foods which are still seated and ask Who eats these foods? These are VERY good foods for keeping you well. Go on until all the "foods" are standing.

e) Make a ring, hold hands and sing "We are the special foods that make people well".


Ask pupils to look at the Reading and find the names for some of the special foods. Then ask them to find names for parts of the body and touch them. What does it say about those parts? Finally, ask them to read the text to each other in pairs.

Discuss the questions with the whole class, especially concentrating on how they like to eat these special foods. This will prepare for the focus on meals and dishes in the next chapter. Again, commend any vegetable dishes eaten with groundnuts or oil, especially red palm oil.

Ask yourself

Demonstrate asking yourself these questions - e.g. Which of these foods do I like best? Well, I really like.... and.... I like to eat........ with...... in the evening. I would really like to eat more......... and............... Give children time to ask themselves the same questions, then let them copy and complete the box. Walk around and look at their answers, and make encouraging comments.


Ask for a volunteer to write the Remember message on a piece of paper, display it in the classroom and read it out. On the opposite side write the title of the lesson. Ask the pupils to give examples of special foods. Let them tell you what they will do to teach the younger children the Remember message. Children take the message home and read it to their families.


The homework is part of the "revaluing" process. Children are asked to find the "special" foods at home and in home gardens, and also to tell their families about them. Most families will have some of them.


At the end of the chapter ask for volunteers to read out all the four Remember messages to the class. After each message is read, ask pupils to call out the examples (as they have practised doing) and ask them why the message is so important.

Event track (optional)

You may wish to organize a final "event" to recycle and publicize the messages of the lessons. This can be a performance in class, or put on for families or other classes, or be part of an Open Day. Here are some ideas relating to this chapter.

  1. Extend the "tired-active" activity in Lesson 1 into a role-play. Use the four steps of the Introduction, pause to explain that food is needed for energy, then come back to show all the children active after eating, as in Activity step (d).
  2. (Referring to Lesson 3) Children make a poster showing their favourite fruit and vegetables. Train them to stand by the poster and say how each food is prepared and eaten.
  3. Every child in the class represents a different food. Children show what they represent, one by one, by holding up a piece of the food, or dressing up, or showing a label, or describing themselves, as in Riddle. On the teacher’s instruction, all the "foods" group themselves into cereals, fruits etc. Each group brings forwards "foods" which are good for growing, for energy and health. End with a song and dance in which all the "foods" promise the audience they will make them strong and healthy.

Training Aids for
page 15

2 children



[3] A baby needs to eat at first one or two small spoonfuls of soft porridge made from cereals like maize, sorghum, millet and rice or starchy foods like cassava; the porridge should be made thicker as the baby gets used to eating it. Once the baby is used to eating plain porridge, other foods can be added in small amounts one at a time (high - protein foods are underlined):

- cooked mashed beans
- pounded groundnuts
- mashed green vegetables
- cooked chopped meat (liver, fish, egg and so on)
- mashed banana, pawpaw or mango
- a little red palm oil, vegetable oil or fat

[4] The recommended number is five. Three is a compromise.

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