Summary of the NICUS Analyses and Updated Menu

During 2016 the Lunchbox Fund commissioned the Nutrition Information Centre of Stellenbosch University (NICUS) to undertake an independent review of our nutrition programme. NICUS drew on international best practice and recognised norms and standards in school feeding interventions to assess the programme’s menu composition and its nutrient delivery. A nutrient analysis of the menu components was undertaken with software developed by the South African Medical Research Council.

The Lunchbox Fund nutrition programme was found to make a significant contribution to the dietary energy, protein and fat needs of its beneficiaries, and is particularly effective in delivering micronutrients. The fortified maize meal, soya blends, and milk powders included were endorsed by NICUS as the best food options for cost effective delivery of nutrients for the programme. Recommendations were made to further enrich our programme, and following these our menu has been strengthened in several ways moving into 2017. Portion sizes have been increased, the protein composition (lentils, beans and soya protein) of meals boosted, medium fat milk introduced to increase the fat content, and micronutrient fortification enhanced where appropriate.

Our nutrition programme is designed for scalability to have a positive impact on education across South Africa. At the cost of ZAR2,50 (US20c) we aim to deliver at least 20% of the WFP recommended daily dietary allowance (RDA) of macro- and micro- nutrients for school-aged children. We achieve this with the delivery of one nutritious, high-protein, plant based meal to our beneficiaries each school day. We now reach or exceed this RDA target across the age groups for protein, and for almost all important vitamins and minerals. Fat delivery falls between 10 and 17% depending on age, and energy for the age group 10 years plus between 17 and 19% depending on menu choice.

Our benefiting schools are required to ‘co-invest’ in the nutrition of the children in their care through the addition of fresh vegetables to the meals at least three days a week. This practice is a vital ongoing element of the Lunchbox Fund nutrition programme, and we continue to encourage schools to provide as much vegetable diversity from what is seasonally available and can be locally sourced.

The Lunchbox fund is looking ahead to the development of a fortified biscuit to facilitate the delivery of peanut butter without the need for bread (which is both perishable and expensive). Peanut butter yields high levels of protein, energy and fat, and offers excellent nutrition as one of the menu options to assist in a the full 20% delivery of fat and energy for all ages.

The full NICUS report is available on request. Please email

24 March 2017