Leap Year – 24 Hours 24 Acts

leap year

It’s a busy world, as such any extra time you get is definitely blessing in disguise. So what happens when you get an extra day … an entire day? That’s what you have in the form of 29th February as 2016 is a leap year. Your happiness will have no bounds, we understand, but have you wondered what all you can do with this extra time? And we are not talking about partying or going out, mind you. We are talking about doing something to give back to the society.

There are many things you can do. Some so simple that they won’t take more than a minute. Like our Facebook page or retweet our tweets, for instance, and help us reach a wider audience. Then there are things that will require more time and efforts on your part, but you can start from today. Like say, organise a fundraiser or maybe get into a partnership with us.

Regardless of what you do, we can assure you that the efforts put forth by you and others like you will amplify to make a huge impact on the lives of children across the country.

To know how you can use an extra day for a good cause, visit: blog.akshayapatra.org/leap-year-24-hours-24-acts/

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The Significance of Good Nutrition for Education

All of us know that eating healthy is essential for the proper development of mind and body.  The importance of good nutrition especially becomes more crucial when we think about children.  Children require good nutrition for the proper physical growth, working of organs and cognitive plus neurological development.  In addition to these, a healthy diet also helps in socio-economic development and healthy growth of children.

Joy of Children

On the other hand, lack of getting adequate nutrition for a long period can lead to growth issues in children. Previous research has linked poverty and malnutrition to smaller brain volumes, social withdrawal, poor writing-reading skills and delayed physical growth in children.  It is worrying to know that around 159 million children across the world under age five were stunted (not growing taller according to age) and another 50 million were wasted (not gaining enough weight for height) in 2014. Stunting can delay motor development, impair cognitive function and affect academic performance.  Similarly, wasting in children, an aftereffect of severe food shortage, can even lead to death.

Similarly, nutrition has a direct link with education. Nutrition and education, in a way, are very closely related.  Good nutrition can help improve behaviour, learning, school attendance and concentration. Nutrition for children includes micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat.  A deficiency of any of these nutrients can lead to adverse health outcomes including death. Iron deficiency can impede cognitive development; vitamin A deficiency weakens immunity and increases death risk from diarrhoea, measles and malaria.  Iodine deficiency can damage the brain and lead to mental retardation. Zinc deficiency can leave a negative impact on growth and immunity.

Nutrition n education

It was in an effort to tackle all these problems the idea of school lunch programmes was born. The main aim was to help improve the nutritional status of children. But the school lunch programmes have also helped hold children back to school.  Apart from these, school lunch programmes also help support local farmers and provide food security to children during crisis. Currently several countries across the world including Brazil, Italy, USA, Australia, France, Greece,  Kenya,  Korea, Finland, Japan, India and Spain have school lunch programmes.

In India, apart from The Government of India, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a NGO also serves mid-day meals in schools. The organisation serves freshly cooked nutritious meals to over 1.4 million children every day.

Now we know how nutrition influences education and the role of school lunch programmes in providing nutrition for children. Next is what we can do to improve lives of millions of undernourished children around us.  Yes, there are lots of options – including volunteering, fundraising or donating to the charity organisations who work for the welfare of these school children.

One can get involved today and help transform the world into a better place for children.

Know the Importance of Food and Nutrition

Have it ever come into your mind why we give so much importance to food and nutrition?

The answer is simple: food gives the energy to work plus grow. Also without food nobody can survive. Nutrition is equally important as food. Our body requires micronutrients like vitamins, minerals in small quantities and macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fat in large quantities. These nutrients help the body in different ways and a deficiency of any of them can affect proper functioning of the body and can even lead to death.

That is why doctors always recommend a healthy, balanced diet for both adults and children.

healthy-food

When we talk about the importance of nutrition and balanced diet, another question pops up-what is a healthy food? Any food item which can help stay healthy including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, dairy products, nuts, seafood, meat and egg is considered as healthy.  On the other hand, a balanced diet involves consuming only the right amount of food required for a healthy body weight and taking different types of foods in the right proportion. A balanced diet, thus will be high in fruits and vegetables; starch (potatoes, rice, bread, pasta); protein (meat, fish, lentils), dairy products (milk) and will be low in salt, sugar and fat.

Balanced diet has been known to protect against many chronic diseases like stroke, heart disease and diabetes in adults. Similarly, food and nutrition has a critical role in a child’s life. A balanced diet helps brain development, improves concentration, boosts self-confidence, keeps bones strong, fights obesity, improves immunity and keeps diseases away.

However, unfortunately, everyone in the world does not have the opportunity to eat healthy. About 870 million people around the globe fight hunger every day and are at higher risk of malnutrition, stunting, wasting and death.

Deficiencies of vitamin A, iron and zinc have found their places among the top ten leading causes of death in developing countries.  It is concerning to know that nearly two billion people are affected with micronutrient deficiency, mainly deficiency of vitamins and minerals.

Iron deficiency is known to cause brain damage in children and pose heart risk in adults. Similarly, a deficiency in vitamin A in children can lead to blindness and increase the risk of dying from measles, malaria or diarrhoea. An iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to poor mental health in babies, stillbirth, abortion, and mental retardation in adults.  Also a zinc deficiency in children can affect proper growth, immunity and cause death.

Food for education

All these years, some international organisations like UN, WFP, UNICEF have been trying to end this problem.  In India, we, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, have been fighting hunger and malnutrition since 2000 by delivering nutritious mid-day meals to government school children. Our mid-day meals contain all the nutrients required for children’s healthy growth.

Over 1.4 million children have benefitted out of our Mid-Day Meal Programme. However, millions of children still require our help. So create awareness about the importance of nutrition with us and help us provide food and nutrition to more children across India.

Akshaya Patra Event – Outride Hunger 2016!

It was an early Sunday morning, but the roads in Rajaji Nagar were already occupied with hundreds of energetic bikers! Yes, it was the beginning of Outride Hunger 2016, a biking event organised by The Akshaya Patra Foundation in partnership with Wrangler on 7 February to create awareness about classroom hunger.

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The Akshaya Patra event was commenced with a flag off ceremony by the Additional Commissioner of Police, Bengaluru, Dr. M.A. Saleem.  Veteran biker Mr. R. Chakravarthy and popular Kannada actor Krishna Ajai Rao were also present during the occasion.

The 24 kilometre bike ride event which started at the HK Hill kitchen of Akshaya Patra on Chord Road passed through Malleshwaram, Race Course Road and Lalbagh Road and concluded at Akshaya Patra’s Vasanthapura kitchen on Kanakapura Road.

Outride Hunger 2016, thus, witnessed the presence of over 300 riders -both individual bikers and members of popular biking clubs including the Royal Indians – Enfield Owners Club (RIEOC), Highwaymen, Free Spirits Motorcycle Club, Bajaj Avenger Club – Bengaluru, Biking Buddies, Bikers of India.

Many riders expressed their gratitude for getting an opportunity to support a good cause, while some others were willing to take the good work a step forward by spreading the word at their workplace.

Achieving Zero Hunger

Hunger is one of the top issues the world faces today. About 795 million people, including children go to bed empty stomach. Is this happening because of food shortage? Of course not, we have sufficient food to feed everyone in the world.  Then what could be the reason?  There are several not just one cause and some of them include – fluctuating market, lack of proper agricultural infrastructure, natural calamities and poverty.

Zero hunger

It is high time that we solve these issues as hunger kills nearly 25,000 people a day and about 14,000 of them are children. Also the death toll from hunger is higher than the human loss caused by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis together.

Solving these issues were the main aim when the United Nations launched the Zero Hunger Challenge (ZHC) in June 2012.  The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Brazil also identified some key areas which can help in achieving freedom from hunger and improve nutritional status of individuals. They included empowerment of women, access or right to adequate food for all, importance to family farming and sustainable plus resilient food systems.

Joy of Children

However, reaching zero hunger also faced some major challenges like minimising the number of stunted children below 2 years to zero, providing 100% access to adequate food to everyone the whole year, achieving sustainability of food systems, attaining 100% growth in smallholder productivity plus income and finally ending loss or wastage of food.

Later in 2015, the Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) joined hands and set a goal to end chronic malnutrition and world hunger by 2030.

The conference concluded that to achieve freedom from hunger by 2030, we have to focus on agricultural development. About 40 per cent of the world’s population is depended upon agriculture for making a living.  Additionally, up to 80 per cent of food consumed in developing world comes from about 500 million small farms.

Agricultural development can be achieved through private and public investment in rural areas. This will help improve rural and agricultural productivity plus income and condition of the food insecure populations.

To end hunger, we also have to conserve crop diversity. However, over the past one century, there is about 75 per cent decline in crop diversity, according to the United Nations (UN). The loss of crop diversity can increase dependency on some major crops and can pose a threat to the zero hunger challenge. On the other hand, growing different crops can help achieve nutritional diets, improve lives of farmers and help in setting up a robust farming system.

Also about 150 million people can be saved from the grip of hunger if women farmers are given equal access to resources as men.

We can also achieve freedom from hunger by improving access to food through social protection programmes, increasing income via improved labour conditions and encouraging productivity- enhancing investments (improving infrastructure, access to market). For this we have to protect our natural resources, embrace agricultural practices which are easier to maintain.

Another factor which should be taken care of to achieve freedom from hunger is wastage of food. We waste about one third of 1.3 billion tons of food produced in the world.

We should also find a way to solve losses in production, storage and consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Taking these measures will definitely help us achieve freedom from hunger. However, to speed up the procedure and to meet the zero hunger challenge by 2030, each one of us should get involved and work towards it.

Yes, we can do it. Come forward and wipe out hunger from our soil. Make the world a happy, peaceful and healthy place to live.

 


 

Akshaya Patra is a not-for-profit organisation based in Bangalore. The foundation is providing mid-day meal to 1.4 million government school children across 10 states of India. Being an NGO in India, we are into the cause to eliminate classroom hunger and illiteracy. The foundation has a mission to serve 5 million children by 2020. Support Akshaya Patra’s cause by donating to NGO.

Why children are hungry?

The concept of happiness changes with each person. For a young child, happiness is the time he or she gets to play, learn and enjoy with friends. However, today, millions of children across the world miss out the opportunity to happiness. How children enjoy childhood when issues like hunger, poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition follow them since birth?

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Of course, we do have enough food to feed the entire world.  But still 795 million people (one in nine people) in the world are hungry and nearly 400 million children live in extreme poverty. But have you ever tried to find out the reasons behind this occurrence? Here are some reasons as pointed out by the World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian agency in the world fighting hunger.

Once fallen into the trap of poverty, according to the agency, it is tough to come out of it. The aftereffect is that people become weak and less capable of earning enough income to support their family.

Think how worse the situation will be when it is added with an unstable market. The fluctuating prices and high costs of food items, no doubt, can make lives of poor miserable and force them to either sacrifice food or to get satisfied with a cheaper and less-nutritious option, which is the start of malnutrition.

Like the unstable market, natural calamities also play a huge role in hunger. Floods, storms and drought can cause crop failures, losses of livestock and massive destruction of crops. Climate change and deforestation also pose threat to farmlands. Apart from these natural reasons, hunger and malnutrition can be sometimes a man-made phenomenon like war and riots.

Similarly, lack of important agricultural infrastructure, has an indirect connection with hunger and poverty. Lack of proper roads can increase the transportation cost, absence of enough warehouses can make it difficult to store the food and lack of proper irrigation facilities can lead to shortage in water supplies.  All these together, can affect distribution and cost of food items.

Though these issues can be solved, it is a shame to reveal that we waste about one third of 1.3 billion tons of food produced in the world.

The most concerning part comes when hunger strikes children. Childhood is one of the most important stages of growth in life and ousting hunger at this period is very crucial for remaining healthy later in life.

The good news is that there is a chance for hope. The World Food Programme (WFP) and millions of other non-profit organisations across the world have already started their fight against hunger. Interestingly, the World Food Programme has already provided food security to 80 million people in 75 countries and the day when we free the 400 million children from hunger and say proudly that ‘child hunger ends here’ is not far from reality.


 

Akshaya Patra is not-for-profit organization working for the development of underprivileged children to eliminate hunger and illiteracy. The NGO in India is serving mid-day meal to 1.4 million children across 10 states of India.