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CAPPA Inaugurates Healthy Food Policy Youth Vanguard

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has inaugurated the Healthy Food Policy Youth Vanguard (HFPYV) programme aimed at youth-focused public health and food justice advocacy.

The inauguration, held on July 2 and 3, at Dover Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos, featured the training and induction of no fewer than 28 young Nigerians from across the country as HFPYV pioneers.

CAPPA Inaugurates Healthy Food Policy Youth Vanguard
CAPPA Inaugurates Healthy Food Policy Youth Vanguard

Delivering his opening address on Day 1 of the programme, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, explained that the HFPYV is designed to equip youths to promote healthy lifestyles and resist attempts by corporations to – through food and dietary products or practices – jeopardize public health.

Why the focus on youths

He emphasised that the HFPYV is particularly youth-focused because young people’s, dietary and lifestyle choices are the target of corporations that prioritise profits over health.

Oluwafemi said: “We take on campaigns that are targeted at the youth. Today, if you look at the food justice campaign, you’ll find out that the most targeted group are the youth. When you look around, look at their adverts, you’ll see that they are targeted at the youth.

“Digital and social media have become one major tool that they use and have been using for this recruitment of consumers, and who are the most active on those platforms? They’re the youths.

“So, it behoves on us too as we embark on some of these campaigns to get the youths actively involved. We would have loved to bring close to 100 youths or more, to this kind of gathering and, hopefully, we will be able to do more in different parts of Nigeria.

“But I am happy that we are launching this youth vanguard today, and that you are also part of it.”

He urged the inductees to be focused and think out of the box.

Akinbode added: “I want you to see this as a call to duty, at a very young age, to dare to be different, to date to think critically, to not to see things the ordinary way people see things, to question everything and dig out facts and be informed, most informed about the choices we make, the choices of food, choices of lifestyle that we embark on because corporations are trying to turn us to robots that only respond and do what they make us think. They do that by sending certain signals to our brains and we react to those and ultimately those things affect our lives.”

Expert guests and facilitators at the event included the In-Country Coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Initiative (GHAI), Joy Amafa, Public Health Specialist at University College Hospital and University of Ibadan, Dr. Francis Fagbule and In-Country Coordinator of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Michael Olaniyan, among others.

Amafa, a public health professional with experience overseeing public health programs for the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Nigeria, noted that GHAI supports civil society organisations that advocate for health policies to reduce deaths and diseases.

“Youth advocacy is an integral part of our work. As a matter of fact, recently it’s been gaining a lot of traction because as we all know, youths have the unique opportunity to make life-lasting impacts. A lot is going on around the world and I’m really excited that this youth vanguard is being launched. I’m really looking forward to what we will achieve, the impact we will make in Nigeria and beyond,” Amafa added.

Other participants included representatives of civil society organisations and youth groups, among others.

How we’ll use our new knowledge, by inductees

The inductees expressed satisfaction with the training and pledged to use the knowledge gained to promote healthy diets and lifestyle choices.

Mr ThankGod Ochai, Deputy Coordinator, YALI Network Ekiti, said: “As a member of HFPYV, I’m committed to driving positive change in Nigeria’s food landscape.

“The two major things I’ve learned from the training are the impact of sugar consumption on public health and strategies for effective policy engagement and the role of youth in driving change

“I intend to use the organisation I’m currently working with as a platform to collaborate with schools and promote healthy food choices. I also have a social media platform called Volunteer Compass on Facebook, which I will use to raise awareness about the impact of sugar consumption on public health through campaigns.”

Daniel Ibikitan, Teens Leadership Coach/Monitoring and Evaluation expert, said he gained “a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and impact of diet-related diseases in Nigeria among young people. This includes the rising rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases linked to poor dietary habits.

“The training highlighted the role of processed and ultra-processed foods in contributing to poor health outcomes. These foods are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, leading to increased risks of chronic diseases.

“I plan to initiate and participate in campaigns to raise awareness about the health risks associated with poor diets and the benefits of healthy eating. Using social media, community workshops, and school programs, we can educate the public on making healthier food choices.”

Ibikitan identified schools as an excellent platform for “promoting healthy diets among children. I plan to collaborate with schools to implement nutrition education programs and improve school meal standards.”

He added: “As a monitoring and evaluation officer, I believe that continuous monitoring and evaluation of implemented policies and programs are essential to assess their effectiveness and make necessary adjustments. I will advocate for the establishment of systems to track progress and impact.

Mrs Oluwaseyi Ademo Olayemi, a researcher and youth development advocate from Osun State said: “I learnt about food justice and why it is important that everyone is able to eat healthily. It is believed that access to healthy food will improve the general well-being and strength of young people to demand for good governance.

“I was also able to broaden my knowledge of why the government must increase the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) tax to reduce peoples’ access to it. Habitual consumption of SSBs by Nigerians will only lead to an unhealthy population.

“Lastly, the digital advocacy session opened my eyes to the various ways through which social media can be used to advocate for a diseased free nation.”

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