How Nutritional Value is Important for Children?

Dictionaries define nutrition as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” Unfortunately obtaining food for health and nutrition worldwide has proved to be tougher challenge than it was perceived. Providing healthy food for children is a concern that transcends geographical boundaries. Fresh and healthy food is a basic right of every child, and there is a need to make sure that they get it every day.

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Unfortunately, we live in a divided world where one section of the society is wasting food while the other is deprived of it. Children are on the receiving end because quite often they are not the bread-earners to be able to fetch food. Several children, who do get food, may not get a diet full of health and nutrition.  At Akshaya Patra, when our target of 2 billion meals was achieved recently, nutrition was still top of our priority. 

The Global Nutrition Report 2016 reveals data on the status of hunger, malnourishment and poor diets in children and adults as well. The report suggests that it’s even more difficult for little children who have to experience hunger and a hard time to get meals twice a day. Nutrition is required for children so as to ensure their growth and a hunger-free life. In India, however, the reality is major part of the population isn’t capable of arranging food for hungry children even once a day.

Nutritional status of children in India:

  • UNICEF reports, almost 20% of children less than 5 years are wasted due to undernutrition.
  • Approximately 61 million children are stunted due to chronic undernutrition
  • More than one-third of wasted children and three out of every ten stunted children in the world, live in India itself
  • Millions of children suffer from micronutrient malnutrition and calorie deficiency
  • The ratio of underweight children is in rural areas increase every year unexpectedly
  • Around 50% of the children under 5 years are underweight and prone to infections

 How’s nutrition vital for children?

Physical growth: Studies have proved that a child needs proper nutrition in order to achieve full height. The same is also true for the rest of his physical growth. There are children who suffer from several physical ailments due to lack of nutrition and good health.

Mental faculties: Health and nutrition pave way for the children to develop their mental faculties. Any pediatrician would testify that the right balance of omega fatty acids in children’s daily diet contribute towards brain activity, development and capabilities. Similarly, each ingredient in a balanced diet adds to a child’s mental growth. That’s precisely why we combined mid-day meals with education in schools and emphasised on providing healthy food for children.

Feeling of wellness: Children who get regular diet and nutritious food are often active in their school and on playground. Remember that children are still exploring the world with their little experience. They have more energy that needs channelising physically. This can happen only when a child has ample nutrition in his body. Such children have a greater sense of well-being and wellness.

Health and nutrition have a lot of value in a child’s growth. It goes without saying that for the overall mental and physical development of any human being, nutrition plays a vital role. It becomes crucial especially for children who are not aware what’s best for them. The children need help and guidance along with a regular supply of nutritious food. We have been providing mid-day meals in schools through our centralised kitchens in 24 locations across 10 states.

You can help children get the right balance of diet with just a click. Donate to charity today!

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.