Centrale Laitière is a major player in the milk production business in Morocco – it is also a subsidiary of Danone, which holds two-thirds of its capital. Like Danone, Centrale Laitière has made its main mission to “provide health through food to as many people as possible”. The nutritional situation in Morocco is in fact a call for action: according to the Ministry of Health, nearly a third of the population suffers from malnutrition, with deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, iodine, etc. And non-communicable diseases related to nutrition are developing: 14.6% of schoolchildren are overweight and 2.8% are obese; 6.6% of adults over 20 suffer from diabetes, and 34% of adults suffer from arterial hypertension.
Overall, the Ministry of Health estimates that health-related costs are equal to 4% of the GDP every year.
In this context, Centrale Laitière is committed to helping improve the general health of the population through healthy and nutritious products and ambitious awareness programmes. Here are the main actions carried out by the subsidiary for the country’s children.
A Foundation for Children’s Nutrition
First, Centrale Laitière has created a Foundation dedicated to the issue: the Foundation Centrale Laitière for Children Nutrition. Its missions are to fight malnutrition and deficiencies in key nutrients, support children’s growth, development and success at school, provide information on diet-related good practices and support research on diet and nutrition. Its first programme, “Nutrition & Development”, was launched in 2008 in the Doukkala-Abda region, in partnership with the Regional Academy for Education and Training. “Nutrition & Development” is ambitious: the idea is to distribute a fortified breakfast to rural schoolchildren all through the school year. The breakfast consists of two specifically-designed products: a brick of “Nutrilait”, with vitamins A, D3, iron and iodine, which covers 30% of recommended daily intakes for these nutrients and for calcium; and a pack of “Golden”: enriched wheat biscuits which represent 12% to 15% of recommended daily intakes for vitamins B1, B2 and PP, and 26% for iron.
Since 2008, the programme has been widened to the region of Tadla-Azilal. Overall, 172 public schools have been covered, and thus nearly 23,000 children. 1,695,186 breakfasts were distributed, and 918 teachers and school directors were taken on board.
Nutritional information and a football cup
At subsidiary level, two other initiatives combining health and nutrition and aimed at children are being carried out. First, the “National Week of Nutrition in the School Environment”: a yearly event. In March 2013, the 11th edition of “Sehaty fi Taghdiyaty” was once more deployed in public and private schools. This is a nutrition-focused educational programme supported by Centrale Laitière and the Ministry of Education, which involves around 4 million children. “Sehaty fi Taghdiyaty” develops a comprehensive approach:
the aim is for children to have acquired the knowledge for adopting a healthy and balanced diet by the end of primary school.
Each year, for one week and depending on their level, they are thus taught about the different food categories, the importance of hygiene, how to prepare a balanced breakfast, etc.
The second initiative stems from one we have often talked about on Down to Earth: the Danone Nations Cup. Morocco has its own national football cup, whose winning « Junior » team gets to represent the country at the DNC: it is called “School Cup Centrale Laitière” and has been going on for 17 years now. As its name suggests, it is organised in state schools all over the country, and results from the partnership between the Ministry of Education and Centrale Laitière in favour of healthy nutrition. Other partners are the Royal Moroccan Federation of Football and the Royal Moroccan Federation of School Sports. Focusing on three main values (fair play, self-confidence and team spirit), the Cup aims to bring out the best in every child, enabling them to live their dreams while learning a little about the body and health.
When it comes to public health issues, public authorities have a key role by definition. But private players can and must contribute to efforts as well. The Moroccan example really shows how partnerships between private and public actors can be an efficient way to tackle local and nationwide issues.