The Importance of Healthy Childhood

Nothing is as fraught with significance as healthy childhood because this is where a better future roots. It ensures good physical, mental and emotional health which ultimately contributes to the multifaceted growth of an individual. Unfortunately, many from the marginalised sections of our society are defenseless against undernutrition and the choice of giving up on education. Sad, isn’t it? However, there are exceptions and this is where NGOs’ roles in India come to play. Akshaya Patra, a Bangalore-based prestigious child NGO has been providing selfless service since 16 years and has served more than 2.12 billion quality meals so far.

akshayapatrahealthychildhood

As a moral obligation, we too should help in ensuring healthy living conditions for all kids especially the underprivileged ones and help them grow as a fit individual for following reasons.

  1. Healthy food provides good immunity power and reduces disease risk

These days it is common to see children having weak eyesight, low stamina, muscular pain, high vulnerability to cough and cold etc. Most of these general problems are consequences of improper nutrition. It is essential to intake a healthy and balanced diet as it provides vital nutrients for the strengthening of immunity power and hence reduces the risk of diseases in children. At growing age, developing healthy eating habits and good resistance against diseases is relatively easy. So the diets should be accordingly planned.

  1. Healthy meals are the key to the cognitive, physical and social development of children

The quality of meal that children consume determines the overall growth of their body and mind. Their concentration, learning abilities, skills, physique, and interaction habits are all a direct function of how well their bodies are supplied with required nutrients. It is observed that children who are well fed are often more cheerful, intelligent, optimistic and surely healthier. Akshaya Patra, the child NGO of Bangalore, takes good care of this aspect in the meals that it provides. It abides by the dietary norms of central Mid-Day Meal Scheme and the prescribed levels of nutrition. The efforts of such organisations truly prove what great roles the NGOs in India can play in eradicating undernourishment.

  1. Healthy today, better tomorrow

If kids are ensured with a healthy childhood, there are ample chances that the results stay long-term. Good physical and mental development imply good dedication towards education, gaining knowledge, learning moral values, increased productivity, better judgment of right and wrong, and a healthy body of course. Thus a balanced diet including sufficient quantities of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber should be provided as each component has its own contribution to the overall development. We have the power to secure better future by taking care of the nutrition of our children as well as of those who are unaware and helpless.

Undoubtedly, giving some of what we have to ensure a healthy childhood and a better future for all kids is the best gift ever. Donate to sponsor a child’s meals for an entire year!

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Essence of Akshaya Patra’s Nutritional Mid-Day Meal Programme

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.

mid-day-meal

Akshaya Patra has been operating Mid-Day Meal Programme in schools since the year 2000. It has been meticulous in its approach to ensure that the food served to children has rich nutritional values. But this is no coincidence. There’s a serious roadmap that’s gone into the creation of a flawless process that enables the serving of hygienic and nutritious food to these schools. In the previous blog, we had shared how important is nutrition for children. Today, we wish to give you a walk-through of the nutritional essence of our Mid-Day Meal Programme.

Nutritious food is hygienic food

One of the foremost steps to cooking, serving and consistently providing nutritious food is hygiene. Where is the food cooked? How’s it cooked? Do the cooks follow hygiene norms? How’s the food transported? How’s it served? These are the questions that have been converted into a meticulous process of serving food. The process begins right from buying the ingredients for the food – be it fresh vegetables, pulses, rice etc. Our centralised and decentralised kitchens across 11 states in India have been designed for the most hygienic conditions of cooking food. Everyone working or even entering these kitchens must go through a process of cleaning their hands and feet before they start to work. Our workers wear gloves while serving the food and the children in school are required to wash hands before they sit for school lunch programme.

Nutritious food is balanced

Another vital aspect of nutritious food is that it must be rich in various combinations to be able to fully benefit a child’s growth. Nutritional values include nutrients, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates and fiber. Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals provide a balanced diet including various nutritional values. We encourage people who wish to offer donation for NGOs to contribute for our kitchens or vehicles so that we are able to fetch the right ingredients for our mid-day meals on a daily basis.

Often in schools, the time allotted for lunch is barely half an hour in which the children also want to play and relax. As a result, they don’t get enough time to sit at leisure and eat everything that their lunch boxes have. This often kills the entire nutritional value of the food as it is not consumed in totality. The school lunch should not be a burden to children. Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals have a lunch menu that can be consumed in less time and it doesn’t look like a burden to children. The lunch is the right blend of dairy, proteins, oils, vegetables and nutrients (click here to read more). In addition, we ensure that children get enough time to truly enjoy their lunch and get complete value from their meals.

Feeding the hungry is a great cause and there’s nothing more motivating for us to know that when we are feeding the children, we are also bringing them to school and contributing towards their future.

Through Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme in schools, we have been able to feed over 1.6 million children so far and recently accomplished 2 billion meals. If you wish to offer donation for an NGO, we encourage you to join our cause and contribute.

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.

role-of-ngos

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!

Uninterrupted Education for School Children

How does Mid-Day Meal Programme help school going children in India? The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO in India that serves mid-day meals to over 1.5 million children, can help you answer that just right. Children are not only getting nutritious wholesome meals everyday but are also encouraged to attend school regularly. We believe your contribution can help us reach 5 million children by 2020 and help you get 100% tax exemption.

Serving mid-day meals to school children creates a vicious cycle – a child like Ajay wakes up to attend school, sprinkles great lessons into his head, feasts on healthy food and returns home after a sumptuous meal, and looks forward to the next day.

Here is an infographic of a school boy who is having Akshaya Patra‘s mid-day meal:

Infographic_Life of a School boy_Akshaya Patra

According to the UN World Food Programme, one out of six children is malnourished in developing countries and roughly 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry—these are just numbers that indicate the severity of hunger. A recent article on Buzzfeed India (www.buzzfeed.com/gayatrijayaraman/broke-hungry-and-on-trend) recognised urban people who go hungry almost every day but their lifestyles reflect otherwise. In both scenarios, we have two classes of people who are unable to satisfy the stomach because food is far from reach. While one is unable to afford it, the other is not able to prioritise on food.

As a society, what can we do to curb hunger in India and how can you, as a working class Indian, benefit from contributing to Akshaya Patra? The Foundation believes in nourishing the young minds who are the future of tomorrow. Because education is of foremost priority, Akshaya Patra began serving mid-day meals to school children in India to reduce dropout rate and enhance class attendance. Thanks to the government, Akshaya Patra’s donors can benefit from 100% tax exemption for contributions that are above Rs. 500. All it takes is Rs. 750 to feed a child every year!

World Health Day: Children Health and Mid-day Meals

world health day

The World Health Organisation (WHO)—a UN agency concerned with public health at the international level—was founded on 7th April, 1948. In order to commemorate its founding, it was decided to observe 7th April as the World Health Day. While the WHO uses the day to spread awareness about some health issue of major importance, the same is also used by various organisations working in the field of public health to draw people’s attention to issues of concern and put forth some solutions. In India, hunger and malnutrition are two such issues, and the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is one of the solutions.

On 28th November, 2001, the Supreme Court of India directed the State Governments “to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government-aided primary school with a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 g of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days.” The stipulated nutritional content has since been raised to 450 calories and 12 g protein for children in primary schools and 700 calories and 20 g protein for children in upper-primary schools.

Mid-day Meal and Children’s Health

In a country where malnutrition is rampant, 450 calories a day come as a blessing in disguise; all the more so because at times this is the lone meal many of these children afford. If malnutrition levels in India have dropped from 42.5% in 2005-06 to 30% in 2013-14, it’s partly because of feeding initiatives like the MDMS and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

Mid-day meal guidelines also state that the meals served should supply micronutrients like iron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin A, etc., to the beneficiaries, thus making it a wholesome meal necessary for proper growth. It’s important to provide nutrient-rich healthy food to children, as the lack of these nutrients can result in problems like stunting (low height-for-age) and wasting (low weight-for-age).

The meals are prepared after taking specific guidelines into consideration to make sure that children get necessary nutrients. In some states, a list of recipes is provided and the schools are expected to pick one every day, whilst being careful not to repeat it that week. In some states, the vegetables used to prepare meals are repeated on a daily basis.

School teachers are testimony to the change the MDM programme has brought about, especially in the context of children’s health. Earlier, many children used to reach school on an empty stomach; at times, even having missed their previous night’s dinner. As a result, it was difficult for them to concentrate on what they were being taught in school. Since the implementation of MDMS, students are faring better in academics as their concentration has improved.

Lack of a nutritious meal on a daily basis made children weak and thus, prone to missing school. The improvement in nutrition levels of children because of MDMS has translated into reduced absenteeism and dropout rates. With examples like these, it’s but obvious that the mid-day meal is of utmost importance for these people.

Good Hygiene – Sound Health

mid day meal

Mid-day meals are not just directly contributing to the health and nutrition of children, but also helping indirectly by inculcating good habits in them. According to the new MDM guidelines, it’s mandatory for all schools serving mid-day meals to allocate hand washing time as a part of the school timetable in order to ensure that children wash their hands with soap both, before and after their meal. Hand washing is a hygienic practice which helps keep several diseases at bay. Studies reveal that washing hands with soap reduces the likelihood of diarrhoea by a whopping 48 percent.

The best part is that the MDMS is having a positive impact on both, health and education sectors. In the education sector, it acts as a perfect incentive to bring children to school. In fact, there are cases where school-going children are accompanied by their younger siblings for that one nutritious meal. It’s worth noting that the Public-private Partnership with Non-Governmental Organisations, like the Akshaya Patra Foundation, is helping the State Governments to feed hungry children across the country.

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that it’s because of the MDMS that children, who would have otherwise been working to support their family, can now have a nutritious meal … and dare to pursue their dreams. So why not use this World Health Day to further the cause and help the concerned agencies to reach more children.

Read on the eve of World Health Day, how Akshaya Patra is addressing malnutrition at: blog.akshayapatra.org/world-health-day


 

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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.

Feed the Children to Promote Healthy Living

Think of healthy food

Have you ever considered why children should eat healthy food? The answer is simple: childhood is one of the most important stages in life and following a proper, nutritious diet is crucial for remaining healthy later in life.

A healthy diet, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is one which is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains like unprocessed wheat, rice. The experts also recommend eating at least 400 grams or 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day.  A healthy diet can help improve cognitive development in children and can also protect them against malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

In India, millions of children lack access to a single healthy meal a day. There are NGOs all over the country that works tirelessly to combat this. One of them is The Akshaya Patra Foundation, children NGO that has been providing unlimited food for school children in India since 2000.

Gujarat Children NGO

The NGO for Children has brought rays of hope to over a million underserved youngsters in India.  Starting the journey by feeding 1,500 children in Bengaluru, Akshaya Patra at present delivers nutritious and tasty meals to over 1.4 million children from 10,845 schools in 24 locations across 10 states in India. The meals prepared by the foundation contain the vital nutrients required for growth.

To feed the children, the organisation depends on support from the Government of India, corporates and donors.  People from across the world come forward to feed the children. The organisation accepts donation both in the form of money and kind. An interesting fact about Akshaya Patra is that it takes just ₹750 to sponsor a child for a whole year.  An additional incentive to sponsor a child is the opportunity to save on tax. Well-wishers who contribute ₹500 or above are eligible for 100%tax exemption under section 35 AC!

Although Akshaya Patra has made great progress in the past 15 years, the Foundation’s mission is to feed 5 million children by 2020. So Sponsor a child and enjoy the joy of giving!