Poor diets and malnutrition are among the greatest societal challenges of our times, impacting our health, our economies, and our environment. A healthy nutritious diet is an essential component in the growing and developing years of children. Child malnutrition is a chronic problem and a longstanding challenge in India. Malnutrition, at its core, is a dietary deficiency that results in poor health conditions. Nearly 33 lakh children in India are malnourished. It is a worry in the modern-day scenario of the country.
It manifests as wasting and stunting in children. Stunting and Wasting are two types of malnutrition that can occur in children. Stunting is low height and Wasting is low weight. They are measured with reference to the age of the child. Both stunting and wasting are serious concerns for children’s health and well-being and can have long-lasting effects on their physical and mental development.
It is important to address malnutrition in children as early as possible to prevent deficiency-related diseases, weakened immune systems, and increased risk of death. As per the Global Nutrition Report-2022, 34.7% of children and 17.3% of children under 5 years of age in India, are still affected by stunting and wasting respectively. The call to action on child malnutrition is therefore an important necessary first step for all of us as a society.
Gift of Nutrition – Annapoorna Morning Nutrition Programme
This window of opportunity to save our children from chronic malnutrition, especially in the rural and underprivileged centres in the nation, led us, Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust, to provide free morning nutritious meals to the school-going children. A healthy morning nutrition can beneficially impact the way the child grows and builds up his or her intellect and intelligence. It has a lasting effect on their physical and mental well-being, academic achievement, and cognitive development.
In July 2012, a small group of IT professionals in Bangalore set out to improve the plight of about 50 underprivileged children on the outskirts of the city by providing them with nutritious breakfast, free-of-cost. Motivated by the results, the service initiative has expanded to embrace more children. Today, it is a leading morning nutrition programme, working at the grassroots level in the area of child nutrition and “hidden hunger” management.
Annapoorna Morning Nutrition Programme has benefited several rural and underprivileged school children with far-reaching impact. Higher attendance, lower dropout rates, improved health parameters, a marked increase in academic performance and attentiveness – and the list goes on.
Today, Annapoorna has touched over 1,200,000 children across 23 states and 4 union territories.
Right to Nutrition and its implications on a developing nation
The Right to Nutrition is a fundamental birthright of every human being. Our founder, Sadguru Madhusudan Sai says, ‘every child should have three fundamental rights – right to nutrition, right to healthcare, and right to education, irrespective of their social or economic status.’
Malnourished children have less potential to develop a healthy future. This affects the future of the country as these children who could contribute using their skills, are threatened with hunger. Good nutrition has the power to empower the present and future generations. India’s greatest national treasure is its people. Healthy children are the building blocks to a healthy future of India. Jawaharlal Nehru said, “The children of today will make the India of tomorrow.” This quote beautifully highlights the collective and individual responsibility we have toward our children, which will go a long way in nation-building. Without providing a way for them to thrive and grow, the nation cannot progress.
It is the dream of the Annapoorna Morning Nutrition Programme to build a nation, where no child goes to school hungry, EVER!
Ref for statistics: https://globalnutritionreport.org/resources/nutrition-profiles/asia/southern-asia/india/