Missão Continente school evaluates impact on the health

The perception of families and teachers of students enrolled in the 1st year of Basic Education at the Missão Continente School reveals that, in the last school year, there was an increase in the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by 12% and 9%, respectively, and a decrease in soft drinks intake by 11%, according to the results obtained from students who participated in this educational programme in the 2021/22 school year. The study on the programme’s impact on children’s health will run until 2025 and aims to continue to assess the programme’s effects on the children’s lifestyles and analyse the progress of childhood obesity.

Missão Continente School, whose 7th edition starts today, is evaluating, for the first time, the programme’s impact on 40 primary school classes, from 35 schools in the country’s 20 districts, for 4 consecutive years (2021-2025), thus becoming one of the studies integrated in a nutrition and community health programme, with greater dispersion, in Portugal.

In the 1st year evaluated, there was an overweight prevalence of 28.1% among the participants, and 10% in a situation of obesity, values ​​slightly below the national averages (29.7% and 11.9%, respectively, according to the study performed by the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative – COSI Portugal). Regarding the eating habits of the 764 children under the study, the assessments carried out with them, schools and families, show that 62.5% consume fresh fruit daily and 58.7% consume vegetables daily, but less than 20% (17.9%) consume fish 4 to 6 times a week and only 8.1% consume legumes daily. For breakfast, almost half of the students (45.9%) eat breakfast cereals up to 3 times a week.

After participating in the programme, these child population’s families highlighted the increase in the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by 12% and 9%, respectively, and the decrease in the intake of soft drinks by 11%.

About these eating habits, Ana Rito, Chairman of the Board and representing the team of Nutritionists who coordinate and implement the study by the Centre for Studies and Research in Social Dynamics and Health (CEIDSS), comments that “there is still a long way to go if we want to counteract one of the most prevalent diseases in childhood - childhood obesity, where 1 in every 3 children is overweight" and that "this is a very important programme to counter this trend and improve children’s eating habits, especially seeing these first results. We want children to be more health literate, more conscious about their food, more prepared to make healthier choices, so that they can grow healthy.

Missão Continente School, created in 2016, sensitizes primary school students to healthy eating, conscious consumption and an active lifestyle. To date, the programme has involved more than 100,000 children. Since the 2021-2022 school year, it has started to cover Pre-School and middle school students. In each edition, participants have access to content, educational activities, challenges (with associated prizes), recreational-pedagogical materials and field visits.

Schools interested in being part of the project can register from today, September 20th, until October 16th, on the Missão Continente website at missao.continente.pt/escola

The last school year was a milestone in Missão Continente School’s history, because after half a decade of getting to know and sensitizing primary school students, we decided to go further and include pre-schools and middle schools in the programme, because we feel that the initiative already is at this level of maturity. We believe that the Missão Continente School is a relevant programme for the entire national food retail sector, and even for civil society globally, because we are directly intervening in the consumers and customers of the future. As a brand, we have moved towards a healthier and more sustainable diet, by improving the products’ nutritional values and customer awareness, but there is something very powerful in the potential and responsibility that these children and young people will have when it is their turn to decide what to buy, to educate their families, to influence their social circle with the choices they will make”, says Nádia Reis, Director of Communication and Social Responsibility at Continente. “The fact that we are carrying out the first impact measurement study of this kind in the country, to assess the true effect of the programme, is the most evident sign that we are committed to positively and profoundly impact the lives and future of these children and their families, in the long term”, adds the official.

Missão Continente School has as institutional partners the General Directorate of Health, the CEIDSS – Center for Studies and Research in Social Dynamics and Health, the São João University Hospital Centre (CHUSJ), the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Porto and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and also has institutional support from the General Directorate of Education.

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