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Uganda Network

Food Glorious Food


Our bodies are like machines and need the correct fuel to make them work. They also need a good deal of care and maintenance if we are to keep in good working order throughout our lives. It is very important that young people develop good habits for healthy eating and healthy living. Here are some ideas to help the Beaver Scouts learn more about their bodies and how to keep them healthy.

Activity - Food Glorious Food!

Help the Beaver Scouts to make a frieze or display of the different foods they eat during the day. Use food wrappings, or make models of the different sorts of food in play dough or clay. (A good recipe for making play dough is to mix one measure of flour with one measure of salt and then add a little water to make the dough. This can be baked at low temperature in an oven after it has been modelled and then can be painted.)

Breakfast. Playtime. Lunch. Home from School. Suppertime. Before bed

The Beaver Scouts can fill in a chart, using the headings above, with their wrappings or models, and then count the different items that appear in each box. Consider which foods are the healthiest such as fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Ask them to compare their daily meals with those of a child in Uganda .

Here is a typical day of meals for James from Uganda, who is seven years old:

  • Breakfast: Bread, Margarine, Tea
  • Playtime: Bread, Margarine
  • Lunch: Bread, Margarine, Piece of fruit
  • After school: Bottle of fizzy drink
  • Suppertime: Fish, Matoke, Tea
  • Before Bedtime: Tea

Matoke is a special kind of cooked banana and is what most Ugandans eat instead of potato. More about this later!

This is not a very exciting diet but it is pretty typical. Many Ugandans, however, would eat more fruit than James but might not have fish or meat more than once or twice a week.

When people do eat meat it is often home reared. Beef is more plentiful than chicken so the latter is considered more of a delicacy than steak, quite the opposite to here. The most common fish is called Tilapia. It tastes a bit like cod but its fillets are flatter.

Consider with the Beaver Scouts how they would feel if they were to eat the same things day after day. Which things would they choose? Is James's diet healthy?

The wrong types of food can easily make us under nourished. Although James's diet is not very varied it should not generally lead to malnutrition. He gets enough iron and vitamins during a week to get by and the abundance of fresh fruit helps a great deal. In some parts of Uganda, however, where food is scarce, the lack of a proper diet can lead to diseases like rickets and scurvy being contracted. It is worth adding that James and his classmates also tend to be a little smaller than European children of the same age. And, of course, in Uganda you see very few cases of childhood obesity.


GREEN = Nutrition OK


12.5 TO 13.5 cms


RED = Malnourished


Make a Shakir Strip

A way of testing young people under five years of age to see if they are undernourished is by using a shakir strip. This very simple method can measure a child's upper arm between the elbow and the shoulder. (reproduced by kind permission of UNESCO)

You could make strips using the template on this page and the Beaver Scouts could measure each other's arms or those of little brothers and sisters.

The strip should be about 1cm wide and 40cm long and should be made from a material that will not stretch. Light card is very suitable.

The actualy dimensions of the strip working from bottom to top are

  • grey = 6cm
  • red = 6.5cm
  • yellow = 1cm
  • green = 6.5cm
  • grey to make up a total length of 40cm



Bananas are the main food of people in Uganda. There are many, different kinds, ranging from the sweet yellow ones like the ones we buy in our supermarkets to harder green ones that remain that colour even when ripe. These are called matoke and are cooked in the following way:
  • First the matoke bananas are peeled and its worth considering that one peels an awful lot of them! Matoke bananas are sold in gigantic bunches or 'hands' and not the tiny clusters we buy at exorbitant prices in our shops.
  • Next, they are cut into smaller pieces. They are very like raw potatoes in consistency.
  • Now they are wrapped in banana leaves to make a parcel. It is at this point that they are steamed for about an hour until they are readyto eat.

The final result looks and tastes like a sweet mashed potato. It is often eaten on its own as a meal in its own right (It fills you up very quickly, although you're often hungry again only a few hours later). Alternatively it is served with a stew or a grilled piece of meat.

In the United Kingdom, each person gets through an average of 7.25 kilograms of bananas a year. A Ugandan may get through as much in a single month. The banana is enormously healthy. It is a complete food in itself which is why Ugandan children remain healthy despite their very boring diet.

A banana is not actually the fruit of a tree. Banana trees are really herbs, or enormous grasses. It takes as long to form a banana fruit as it does a human baby, nine months.

Bananas are part of our language. We talk about banana hands in the same way as we speak of butter fingers. Banana republics are Latin American dictatorships and of course everyone knows about 'going bananas'. What you may not know is that the Australians talk about banana oil... their slang for a form of insincerity.

Cooking with bananas

You can't make matoke with the Beaver Scouts, unless you live near a market that stocks cooking bananas. (They are sometimes known as plantains in this country.)

But you could cook some banana dishes with your Beaver Scouts. How about:

Barbecued bananas

Baked Bananas with the skins and flesh split with chocolate buttons pushed inside. Banana splits, Banana custard, Banana fritters, Banana milkshake. Uganda's national drink is made from bananas too. It is a form of banana gin, is very potent, and is called Waragi. This isn't recommended for Beaver Scouts.

Banana sounds!

Bananas have appeared in the British charts eight times. Shirley Bassey and the Boomtown Rats have sung about them - although Bananarama haven't. Can you remember Shirley Bassey's hit? Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song was the most popular version, reaching number 2 in 1957. Other songs include The Banana Splits, 'Tra La La' song in 1979 and the Wombles with 'Banana Rock' in 1974. Perhaps your Beaver Scouts would find both these songs very amusing if you could hunt them out!

The popular post war song, 'Yes, we have no bananas' also had a German equivalent. It was called Ausgerechnet banana, and in it a man loses his girlfriend to a man with bananas.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Daily Mail

Banana Crazy

A few years ago giant inflatable bananas were available in the shops. They make brilliant batons for relay races, floats for swimming trips, or just decorations for the Colony meeting place. If you can get hold of some then grab them while you can.

Contact the Uganda Network Copyright © The UK Uganda Network - 2002
Last modified 29 December 2003


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