CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
Given the high prevalence of anaemia amongst pregnant women in India (59%), undernourishment is often born before the child is. Children who suffer from undernourishment lack nutritious food and knowledge about food. As they grow, their poor food habits are reinforced, carried into adulthood, and passed on to their children. By the time these children grow to become parents, they have accumulated a lifetime of poor nutritional habits and traditional practices that are difficult to unlearn. For instance, in rural India, some pregnant women deliberately under-eat in a bid to reduce labour pain by giving birth to a smaller baby. They believe that the child’s development can be accelerated post birth, when in reality undernourishment has already caused significant physical and cognitive damage by the time the child is born.
What can we do to ensure that parents will make decisions based on scientific facts, not on superstition?
By transforming children from passive participants to active advocates in their and their families’ nutrition, Nourishing Schools prevents the vicious cycle of undernutrition from reinforcing itself, generation after generation.
Nourishing Schools partners with organisations that have a network of schools, organisations working in agriculture as well as the government to target the most powerful agents of change – children. Years from now, when they become parents, they will also be better at nourishing their children.
The programme engages school-going children aged between 9 and 14 through their academic curriculum and community activities, in order to create lifelong nutrition-seeking habits. This is done in the following ways:
1) We teach them about nutrients, how to cook food optimally, and a range of topics that can help them make more informed choices.
2) To show rather than say, we conduct activities that include tending to a school garden, association games, and storytelling, to name a few.
3) We partner with mid-day meal programmes to improve the nutritional value of food served in schools.
4) We encourage community participation through farmer groups, by communicating to change negative food habits, and collaborating to restore positive ones.