Lend A Hand India is partnering with Ashoka India in their newly launched initiative – “Nourishing Schools” project – an initiative to develop collaborations between various stakeholders that would leverage schools to improve the nutrition of communities.
In a recent baseline study conducted, instructors associated with Lend-A-Hand India’s projects, collected information on students’ nutritional levels and food habits. These instructors of the Home and Health, and Agriculture subjects interacted with children through standards 4 to 9. As they share, it was insightful for both students and them. Students were able to gauge their health while instructors were now thinking more deeply about how to incorporate nutritional awareness in what they teach, and go beyond.
For example, Vandana who teaches Home and Health in a school in Shirwal, Satara is now pondering over interventions for improving the health of not just students, but families and community at large. An instructor from Kaledhon, Satara on seeing how difficult it was to draw a blood sample of one of her students, realized his iron deficiency and asked him to replace his staple meal of roti and chutni, with jaggery instead.
Through this survey, instructors got information about the eating habits of their students, of the nutrients received. Keeping in mind their lifestyle, health and hygiene practices, and their environment – they could educate them on nutritious food and incorporate it into the practicals they teach on home and health.
Collecting this data proved to be time consuming, but also amusing. An instructor shared his particular experience wherein on asking about source of drinking water got a prompt response from one student, “From the earthen pot.” The instructor had to visit the home of student to find the source. Most instructors had to visit the community to collect data as oftentimes children offered insufficient information. But in the process got a better understanding of the lives and background of their student.
“Health was never a topic broached in class, never explicitly. However while conducting this survey I got a detailed understanding of the health of my students – their eating habits, the nutritional awareness, their BMI and HB levels! Significant details of problems of sanitation and access to drinking water also came to my knowledge,” shares Suchitra, the Home and Health Instructor at a school in Mayani, Satara. “I was then able to incorporate this information into my classes – For eg, we had learnt to make Chikki in class which I now advised the children with low HB to eat more of.”
Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) and Ashoka India have partnered to roll out the Nourishing Schools pilot in the schools where LAHI is currently working. For this purpose 7 schools from Satara, 1 school from Sangali and 6 schools from Pune district, Maharashtra have been identified. The initiative aims to improve nutrition by focusing on improving the quality of midday meals, communicating nutrition messages through the curriculum and school design, increasing access to clean water and sanitation etc towards creating a holistic package of interventions that can be implemented across schools.