Nutrition in children has been the subject of immense research and study, especially its role in the neurocognitive development of children from womb to infancy. Neurocognitive development refers to the development of the brain and the knowledge and skills that help children think and understand the world around them. Studies have shown that poor nutrition in children puts them at high risk for impaired cognitive abilities. The quality and quantity of food available to students affects both their academic performance and their body weight relative to other children in the same age group1.
In India, initiatives to improve child nutrition have a long history. It was in 1923 that the then Madras Presidency started providing midday meals in schools. After independence, in the mid-1980s three states started a universal midday meal program for elementary school children, followed by nine more states in 19912. In August 1995, the national lunch program began Midday (MDMS)3, a government-sponsored program that today covers all schoolchildren studying in grades 1-8 in public and government-subsidized schools and addresses issues related to nutrition and health children through the provision of a healthy meal.
While the midday meal program has been a success, expanding over time to now feed the largest number of children in every country in the world, now is the time to extend its reach to breakfasts, which are the most important meal of the day. . Eating a full and balanced breakfast every morning is important and has an impact on both student well-being and classroom performance. Studies also indicate that children who eat breakfast regularly are generally healthier and do well in school. A healthy and nutritious breakfast satisfies children’s hunger, with students making healthier decisions about their other meals at school because they are not motivated by hunger4.
While some children have the option of having lunch at home, many do not. As a result, many students may not have their first meal until lunchtime. It can trigger morning hunger and the reasons can range from lack of time to affordability. Many children have schools that start early in the morning, and some children also have to take their school bus or other modes of transportation to get to school on time. This lack of time can easily be solved by serving nutritious and quick to prepare breakfast cereals. Mixed with milk, cereals make a quick and nutritious breakfast.
For children from disadvantaged families, affordability is a major reason children come to school hungry. Due to financial difficulties, some parents cannot adequately feed their children with healthy, balanced meals and end up skipping breakfasts. When these children arrive at school hungry, they are not in an ideal state to learn because hunger will be their main concern while they wait for their midday meal, since most of them are schoolchildren. public or government-subsidized schools. .
To address the issue of affordability, it is important that the government and organizations working in the area of food and nutrition put in place sustainable programs, so that underprivileged children can obtain nutritious food frequently. This has been recognized in the new National Education Policy 2020, which proposes that the midday meal program be supplemented with breakfast. The policy outlines how a nutritious breakfast in the morning can improve student productivity and aid in the study of more cognitively demanding subjects. Tamil Nadu has taken the lead in launching a breakfast program covering grades 1-5 in public schools5.
Morning hunger and its fallout can be addressed with simple breakfast options, including breakfast cereal and milk, to provide a hearty and nutritious meal for children to start their school day. impact on education in India.
About the Author: Dr. Pankaj Jethwani is the co-founder of The Breakfast Revolution.
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