Last year we conducted an Early Childhood Development Study to understand how Bakhel children could be better served. Our study found that 90% of 1-4 year olds in Bakhel have stunted growth and 54% were underweight or severely underweight. To help address the problem of malnutrition, we started a breakfast club last month so that children at Hunar Ghar receive healthy and balanced meals twice a day, complementing the free school lunch they already get. Our Special Educational Needs Intern Leah took the lead on this. Below is an excerpt from her blog where she describes the background work that was done to start the breakfast club.
“I have always been a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I never leave the house without eating in the morning. Prior to coming out to Bakhel I was aware that malnutrition and infant mortality were problems within the community. Hunar Ghar School currently provides all students with a meal at lunch. Yet for some, this will be their only meal of the day. My project is all about inclusion, and ensuring children have equal opportunity to succeed. For optimum learning and concentration, children need a good meal in the morning. This is why I advocated starting up a breakfast club.
During my first month here I visited 30 different student homes in Bakhel and neighboring villages. I wanted to get feedback on the idea of breakfast club. Of the parents that I asked, they all felt it was a good idea and would like their children to have breakfast at school. It wasn’t a surprising finding, but the main purpose of this research was to involve the community, keep them informed and show them that their views are valued by the school.
I asked families about what, if anything, their child normally eats before school. I found that in the last week, a third of families could not give their child breakfast. When children had received breakfast, it always consisted of leftovers from their meal the previous evening.
I also asked if parents had any suggestions for what food they would like us to provide. More than half of parents didn’t have any suggestions, but said we should provide whatever we think is best. Food in the village is not only scarce, but limited in variety. Most families eat chapatti with dal every night. The parents’ response suggested that they want their children to have a healthy and balanced breakfast, but have not been exposed to what this could be.
Since then I have sought advice on diet and nutrition from someone with professional expertise, to help determine the best way of increasing the children’s calorie and nutritional intake with the foods that are locally available.
Of the five foods groups, I made a list of all of the foods within each category which are locally available. From this I produced a weekly breakfast menu whereby each day includes at least three of the five food groups.
I worked with other staff members at Hunar Ghar to calculate costs, source the food, inform current kitchen staff, seek additional staff, as well as inform parents and students. ”
Breakfast club began in the first week of July as the new academic year began and has been a huge success since then. You too can support us and be a part of this initiative of ensuring healthy childhoods for children in Bakhel, by donating through our website or by becoming a Friend of Educate for Life.