Eliminating Hunger is a Crucial Step for India

The Global Hunger Index (a tool designed to measure global hunger) released by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that India ranks 97 out of 118 countries – ‘Serious’ hunger. As many as 43 countries are under the ‘Serious’ category whereas 45 countries are low. For India to tackle the hunger problem by feeding the hungry, the current policies have schemes have to be more stringent and accessible to people in need.

While the government and many NGOs are working towards feeding the children with wholesome meals, there is a need for us to act together as a society. Given the number of children who require food in our country, Akshaya Patra, a children’s NGO based out of Bengaluru, is providing healthy meals to over 1.6 million school children in 11 states in India. The Foundation is also focusing on reaching out to 5 million children by 2020.

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Why should we focus on children’s food demands?

Children are the future. Considering the magnitude of hunger problem in India, many NGOs are setting up initiatives to eliminate hunger especially among children – they are stunted, poorly nourished and do not receive one square meal a day. Going by the GHI score, 38.7% of children below five years are stunted – it means that the weight is not appropriate for their height (they are too thin). In 1992, this score was 61.9. That’s a difference of 23.2% in the last 24 years.

With an initiative like ‘Food for Education,’ by Akshaya Patra, the advantages are doubled to make hunger a history – the child is educated and also, he or she is completely nourished with nutritious meals.

Inclusive development and addressing issues using this method is more important for India. That is, simultaneously focus on development of education, citizens’ rights, health care, housing facilities, job opportunities and so on. However, when one issue is looked down as least important, it multiples and becomes far more challenging.

Here’s what you can do to eliminate hunger in India

It has been proved over and again that India has sufficient resources to eliminate hunger. However, the existing challenges are a drawback. Distribution of food among families with low-income, building infrastructure to reach certain towns and villages, educating the farmers, ensuring fair-trade are some of the challenges.

Akshaya Patra’s school lunch programme benefits children from many small towns and villages to consume a square meal on every school day. Today, the organisation reaches out to 13,210 schools to feed the children. Keeping hygiene and quality in mind, mid-day meals are freshly prepared and are delivered to schools during lunch time.

You can get involved in this cause too! Contribute to the cause by sponsoring a child’s mid-day meals for an entire year. Also, you can learn how Akshaya Patra operates its Mid-Day Meal Programme by visiting our blog.

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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!

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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