Does 1 in 5 South African kids miss breakfast, as an ad said?

Emphasising the importance of a healthy breakfast, a margarine brand claimed that one in five South African children doesn’t eat one.

In South Africa, a popular margarine brand recently tweeted: “1 out of 5 South African children do not eat breakfast in the morning.”

This is part of Rama margarine’s #GoodBreakfast marketing campaign. Naturally, “bread with Rama” was the first item shown in the accompanying video, followed by tea with milk, fruit and an egg.

Survey: Two-thirds had breakfast before school

Unilever, the company that owns Rama, told Africa Check via email that the source of their claim was the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, released by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

Published in 2013, this nationally representative survey documented South Africans’ health and nutrition habits. It was carried out between April and November 2012.

In the section it captured the eating habits of children, 19% of those surveyed said they did not eat breakfast. However, the respondents to this question were children aged between 10 and 14 years.  

“Overall, more than two-thirds of children (68.4%) indicated that they ate breakfast before school,” the survey states. The rest of the children (12.6%) only sometimes had breakfast.

Not representative of all SA children

Dr Nokuthula Vilakazi, a researcher at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being at the University of Pretoria, told Africa Check that the 2012 survey is the most recent research of children’s eating habits.

She explained that the reasons for not eating breakfast “varied from not being hungry early in the morning, not having enough food in the house, people at home not having breakfast, cannot get up early enough and cannot make their own breakfast”.

The age group surveyed is not representative of South African children of all ages, however.

Dr Zandile Mchiza, a senior research specialist at the HSRC, told Africa Check that “whoever is using this data needs to spell it out, saying that it is children [aged] 10 to 14 years, not all children”.

Another survey: 72% of Grade 6 pupils had breakfast

As part of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality surveys, Grade 6 pupils are asked how often they ate certain meals.

According to the third and most recent survey results, 8% of the South African pupils did not eat breakfast in 2007. 11% of the children ate breakfast one to two days a week and 9% ate breakfast three to four days a week.

Conclusion: We don’t know how many kids don’t have breakfast

Recently, a popular margarine brand in South Africa posted on social media: “1 out of 5 children in South Africa do not eat breakfast in the morning.”

While the information was based on a 2012 survey, it was not representative of children of all ages in South Africa, but only those between the ages of 10 and 14.

It may well be that 20% of all children in the country do not eat breakfast, but there is no current research backing up this claim. We therefore rate it unproven.



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