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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10 Healthy Eating Habits for Children by Akshaya Patra

National Nutrition Week has ended on the 2nd week of September. Before we can wrap up our series on Nutrition, we would like to talk about ten healthy eating habits that must be inculcated among 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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  1. Balanced diet

Children need to be taught early that nothing is tastier than a complete nutritious meal. One of the objectives of mid-day meal at Akshaya Patra is to provide a balanced diet to the children as a healthy eating habit.

  1. Praying before eating

We count it as a healthy eating habit. Akshaya Patra wishes to educate children apart from feeding them. One of our practices is to ensure that the children say their prayers before starting to eat food. This helps them realise the value of food and that they should be thankful to the Almighty for providing them with food.

  1. Eating together

Families must eat together at home and friends must have lunch together at school. There’s nothing more joyous than enjoying a great meal together, discussing about taste and favourite foods. At Akshaya Patra, eating together fulfills our objective of supplying mid-day meal in a healthy environment.

  1. Eating slowly

It’s vital to have the habit of eating slowly as it helps in controlling weight. This ensures that they chew their food properly leading to better digestion. Eating fast causes obesity. Studies have shown that nearly 60 percent of overweight children aged 5 to 17 had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 25 percent had two or more. Also, obese kids have an 80 percent chance of staying obese their entire lives.

  1. Attractive foods

Another healthy eating habit is to include colourful foods, vegetables and fruits in children’s meals. This encourages children to enjoy food and look forward to meals.  At Akshaya Patra, we prepare a variety of food for children to ensure that they really enjoy the experience of having mid-day meal at school.

  1. Water instead of concentrated drinks

In modern day meals, we have got into the habit of consuming concentrated juices or cold drinks or soda instead of water. While fresh juices do have some merit, most preserved juices have more calories than we know.  But water should be the choice during meals for children since it boosts immune system and digestion.

  1. Learning when to stop

Another healthy food habit is knowing when your stomach is full. Toddlers and younger kids find it hard to understand the signals that their stomach sends to their brain. Children should be taught signs of fullness clearly from the time they learn to eat their own food.

  1. Healthier snacks

Today, there are several varieties of snacks available for children, many of which are not healthy. Snacks such as fried foods, packaged foods, noodles, potato chips etc are readily available but are far from healthy. As a healthy eating habit, children must be taught to consume fruits, juices, nuts etc. as alternative snacks.

  1. Less sugar and salt

At Akshaya Patra, the amount of sugar and sweets is an important parameter of a nutritious diet. While we always send extra salts with our transport vans, we teach the children to avoid using too much salt and sugar in their meals. Salt and sugar are the leading causes of heart-related diseases as adults and must be cut down right from the childhood.

  1. Discouraging eating meals before TV

Eating dinner or lunch before television is a common practice among modern families. However, this kills the joy of eating and distracts children from truly savouring their meals. Children often complain of hunger afterwards if they have consumed their meals while watching TV.

There are millions of children still who don’t get healthy food. They need to be reached and fed. We encourage you to donate to NGO towards unlimited food for education so that we are able to take our mid-day meals to more and more children.