On a full stomach

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akshaya patraAkshaya patra.

On a full stomach but what about nutrition have done a healthy food check?

Gore mashtru, is a retired school teacher who has taught in rural Karnataka. He used to notice in the sub-urban school where largely migrant worker’s children came, Monday’s the kids would be very unruly, and by Tuesday they would calm down.  Initially he thought it was the children’s reluctance to attend school.

That dealing with the lack of food over the week-end was more the issue.

So when the local rotary club wanted to sponsor mid meal the school requested that they give a glass of milk and upma/avalakki for breakfast. Since the children went to the temple for lunch.

The visionary headmaster of Nittur School in Udupi came up with this plan to keep the kids off the roads, and to ensure some nutrient intake. The plan was simple school would be over and the kids could play games in the premises. There was also a school garden where the kids worked. Planted seeds and nurtured the garden.

The lunch prepared at the school also involved the school kids by turns. The fare was simple and wholesome, that is “red rice ganji” the water content in this is more and that takes care of the water imbalance created by the coastal heat. Along with it, they would make chutney with coconut and dry roasted urad dhal and added grated vegetables grown in the school garden. This menu was created in consultation with the Ayurveda College so that the nutritional and the water balance needs of the children are met.

In addition to keeping the cost down, the food was clean, wholesome and healthy. It also followed the healthy eating eating habits as laid down by Ayurveda.

When someone wants to sponsor lunch they do not change the menu, the only request they have is if the money donated is more than what is required they would use it for another day’s meal.

When the government came up with its mid-meals they started insisting that they would send the rice. They would insist on using vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or beans which were expensive and rather pathetic. The rice the kids received was of poor quality. While earlier the rice was donated by the villagers who would take trouble.

Finally the school opted out of the government scheme so that they could ensure the health of their kids.

If you thought poor nutrition was a socioeconomic issue then you are sadly mistaken. Children of all socioeconomic levels are at risk for poor nutrition. In some cases there was lack of money to buy food, in other cases, the food consumed is more than enough but the diet is high in fat, sugar and sodium rendering susceptible to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.  With increasing number of working parents, kids are left to fend for their own eating or unlike the lower socio-economic class that will eat a cold lunch these kids tend to eat pre-cooked or semi-cooked food.

Nutrition does affect the children’s ability to learn. Recently controlled research has been conducted to study this.

Inadequate nutrition during the prenatal period could result in low birth weight. These kids are more likely than other infants to have hearing, vision or learning problems. They would then require special education services.

In preschooler nutritional problems can give rise to shortened attention span, irritability, fatigue and difficulty with concentration. This in turn results in anaemic children, with lower vocabulary, reading and other parameters the ASFSA 1989 survey shows that children with least protein intake in their diets ten exhibit lower achievement scores.

In the middle-income and upper middle income groups, children are often sent to school with no breakfast other than a glass of milk. Usually around 7am. The child gets to have his breakfast only at around 10.30 the lunch break being about 20mnts, through which the child has to eat, relieve himself/herself and socialize. So eating becomes less of a priority.  Then a tedious travel back, tuitions, extra-curricular activities, eventually the child gets home and has an early dinner at around 8pm which means the stomach is empty for the next more than twelve hours.

This creates an imbalance in digestion resulting in nutritional lack.

Eliminating classroom hunger—If feasible, let the government send in its midday meal funds to the school then

  • Consulting the Ayurveda doctors, not allopath or food and nutrition jokers, create a simple menu plan.—season and local locavoria being the criteria.
  • If feasible after the assembly and Morning Prayer have a twenty minute break for a mid-morning snack. The children can be given a choice of either carrying their own snack or eating at school on a subsidized price. An ideal time would between 8-8.30
  • If there is morning breakfast break then lunch break can be given at 12.30 for half an hour again the kids can be given an option of carrying their own lunch or opting for a subsidized school lunch. Though the school lunch should be encouraged. Since usually meal time is when the social bonding occurs.
  • It is better to avoid non-vegetarian so that the cost stays low, and the quality control is better.
  • Children contribute to growing vegetables — this has to be done by turns. this will bring children closer to nature, take care of emotional unrest and give a sense of achievement. It allows practical application of biology.
  • Avoid, potatoes and deep fried food which is not really healthy for the system.
  • Children of higher classes should be involved in sourcing the vendors and placing purchase orders, again gives the child a sense of responsibility and learns hands on in dealing with budgeting and finance.
  • Donors and the mid meal schemes are all deposited in an account, allowing the school to source other requirements. Local Rotary clubs and other community service clubs may like to volunteer in kind.
  • Children also are made to serve food by turns.
  • Washing up of their plates would also be the responsibility of individual child.

Maybe I am naive or too idealistic.  I don’t know but kitchen, food and warmth are great ways to learn.

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

 

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