A healthy nutritious diet is an essential component in the growing and developing years of children. It aids in building a strong foundation in the child with regards to staying healthy and imbibing good eating habits right from childhood. The 3 most important benefits of early childhood nutrition are; it helps in building immunity against various infectious diseases, ensures proper development of brain and other vital organs and improves a child’s activity levels and cognitive functioning. Therefore, proper nutrition for children is important as it sets the stage for them towards living a healthy and balanced life for the rest of their lives.
As per the Global Nutrition Report 2018 nearly half of all under-5 child mortality in India is attributable to undernutrition. Poor nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life can also lead to stunted growth, which is associated with impaired cognitive ability and reduced school and work performance. Malnutrition in children occurs as a complex interplay among various factors like poverty, maternal health illiteracy, diseases like diarrhea, home environment, dietary practices, hand washing and other hygiene practices, etc. In the 2019 Global hunger Index, India ranks 102 out of 119 qualifying countries. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious. Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India are not able to meet their full human potential because of chronic under nutrition or stunting.
The Mission Education programme of Smile Foundation has initiated the campaign ‘Nutrition for Education’, wherein nutrition is provided to lesser privileged children, helping them get not only better health, but also better education, and other development opportunities.Smile Foundation initiated a nationwide awareness campaign on the importance of nutrition and health in underprivileged communities across India, with support from Yum! and Herbalife. Under this programme that is spread across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Tripura, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, the campaign aims at sensitizing children, their families and communities, towards the importance of nutritious food, leading to better health, education and other opportunities for the children. Through these projects Smile Foundation has been able to reach out to almost 4500 underprivileged children and provide one-time meal as per age specific Kcal value required.
The children belong to households where the parents are engaged as daily wage labourers, factory workers and other small scale entrepreneurs. With Smile’s nutrition program, children need not pack their lunch as they can have the freshly cooked hot meals at noon in school along with their friends. These delicious meals are looked forward to by the children as many a times; they do not have access to 3 proper square meals a day. Interestingly, there is an increase in regular attendance, decreased drop-outs and improved academic and over-all performance of children. Parents are contented and grateful that their children have access to a healthy and nutritious meal at least once a day.
Hence, a child’s healthy development is not complete without proper nutrition. Once the importance of good nutrition is instilled in a child, it remains with her/him in guiding him to live a positive, healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
To know more about the nutrition campaign visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/plate-half-full/