Food plays an integral role in ensuring health and well-being of all individuals. Consumption of a balanced diet is important to meet the nutritional requirements of maintenance, growth and development of the body. Significance of having nutritious food increases tremendously in childhood and adolescence due to rapid physical and psychological growth in these stages of life. At the same time, a regular meal pattern not only keeps body healthy but also keeps diseases at bay. Food has social and emotional significance as well. Having meals together inculcates the feeling of sharing and caring among children. Therefore, SBT has made conscious efforts to provide children a well-balanced diet.
As part of the present project the children of the shelter homes are being provided food and nutrition.
Deciding on a balanced yet interesting menu for children is challenging as children like to have tasty and colourful meals with ample variety. Apart from this, children have also developed preferences for fast and junk food which are laden with fat, calories and high sodium. Therefore, in order to plan for a menu which is nutritious and enjoyable, food committees at different centres had meetings with children to include their choices in the menu. Based on the findings of the meeting and food committees’expertise on food and nutrition, menu with foods from different food groups was formulated for children.
The menu is an attempt to include different foods such as cereals, pulses, vegetables, fats and oils and fruits. An effort has been made to include dishes of children’s choice for example chole bhature, maggi and samosa. However, such dishes are prepared in ways to make them nutritious, as in the case of maggi, vegetables are added. Similarly, murmure or rice puffs rich in iron are offered as evening snacks with namkeen of children’s choice.
Quality of Food: The formulation of menu though an essential pre-requisite does not assure that well-balanced meals are served on children’s plate. To ensure this, stringent quality checks are made by the coordinator and staff at home at different stages from buying the raw materials to preparing the actual food.Staff members make regular checks in a day in the kitchen while meals are being prepared so that the cooks observe cleanliness and hygiene. In addition, before the meals are served to the children coordinator or a staff member tastes all the dishes to ensure food is palatable and safe. To further improve the quality of meals the budget for breakfast, lunch and dinner has been increased.
As part of the present project following activities are conducted regularly at the centre to ensure health and nutrition of children.
- Regular health check-ups of children are conducted at the centre. The results show that most of the children are growing according to their age with ideal body weight for height.
- The reported illnesses and diseases have also been low in the home.
- Children are being provided well-balanced meals, with food items from all the food groups including cereals, pulses, vegetables, fats and oils.
- Care is taken to ensure that meals are colourful and attractive and children enjoy having them.
- Specific care is taken to ensure that those children who are thin consume adequate amount of food to reach their ideal body weight according to the height.
- In addition, children have been enjoying the practice of having meals together.
- They have learnt to eat together, share and serve others.
- Most importantly, the children have developed the habit of praying before the meals.
- Sincemeals are served at a particular time, children also have a sense of having meals on time.
In the current year in average 345 to 400 children are being provided meals per day at SBT shelter homes.
Having food together has helped the children in bonding well with each other and has instilled a feeling of unity among them. While sitting and eating together children feel a part of a big family. Thus, apart from having a positive effect on well-being of children, the practice of having meals together also plays a crucial role in their psychological and social development. This has been a remarkable achievement of the present project.However, the team often faces a challenge in organising food for fluctuating number of children in the home. Sometimes food is required for 50 children and at other times for 75 children as the number of children staying in the home varies based on the ordersof the Child Welfare Committee.
The staff members have envisioned timely menu and food quality review meetings with children. In addition inclusion of healthier diet options such as gourd vegetables and more green leafy vegetables is also being explored