Teenage chef takes healthy eating message to UAE schoolkids

Diabetic 14-year-old wants to make good food and exercise fun

Dubai, 12 October 2016 – A 14-year-old Dubai teenage schoolgirl is bringing a healthy eating message to younger children across the emirate and in Sharjah. Bella Pearson, who is Type 1 diabetic, is spearheading a programme by Al Islami Foods to raise awareness of the need for exercise and a healthy diet among UAE residents.
Chef Bella and a team of dancers from the Dans studio in Dubai are making appearances at 15 schools in the first phase of the programme, reaching 9,000 pupils.
“Figures released by Dubai Health Authority as recently as July this year revealed that 33% of schoolchildren across 176 private schools are overweight, and 14% to 16% of those are obese,” said Mr Hamid Badawi, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Al Islami Foods. “Furthermore, 19% of the UAE population is living with diabetes, which is mostly related to rising obesity rates and physical inactivity.
“As one of the longest-established food brands in the UAE, Al Islami wants to contribute to the well-being of all UAE residents through raising awareness of good eating habits and providing healthy food choices.”
A sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits are cited by the International Diabetes Foundation as the main causes of the increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the UAE.
Bella is proud of her involvement in the healthy eating campaign, which has been devised in cooperation with nutritionists from the Manchester Clinic in Dubai. “I’ve learned to manage my own diabetes and in the process have found out a great deal about the importance of eating healthily and taking exercise,” she said. “I have been lucky enough to train as a chef with the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts (SCAFA) in Dubai, and I grew to understand that preparing healthy food can be fun.
“I want to pass on that sense of fun to other children so that they can learn good habits from an early age. The sessions we’ve had in schools so far show that kids as young as six will get up and dance at the slightest opportunity, too – we’re trying to make the subjects of exercise and healthy eating fun. The reaction in the schools has been fantastic.”
Phase one of the Al Islami programme continues until 25 October, and plans are in hand to take the programme to more schools in November.