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Government Responsibility in Introducing Early Nutrition Education in Schools

The government can influence and impact the long term well being of its citizens. The duties, roles and responsibilities of the government is an exhaustive list. It plays the roles of a developer, implementer, provider, protector, investor and many more.

For the progress and development of any country various projects and interventions are commonly discussed and implemented by the governing authorities. For example, improving infrastructure, improving production methods, improving trade and agriculture policies, improving environment policies, etc. However, Early Childhood Nutrition Education hardly ever makes it to this list. Nutrition based programs such as Mid-Day Meals and Supplementation programs are regular features of government programs, with little or no emphasis given on early childhood nutrition education, teachers training in early childhood nutrition education and consistent, regular parents awareness programs. Isn't it high time we ask Why? Why is nutrition and education in nutrition science from an early age largely overlooked and underfunded?

People of the nation have a direct impact on the development of the nation, its productivity, economic growth and ultimately national development. School children make up a substantial part of the population. Besides they are the future of the nation. Investing in educating children about the basics of nutrition science, has the power to change lives. It can unlock huge social and economic changes, especially in countries like India where the burden of malnutrition is high.

India’s performance on key malnutrition indicators is poor according to national and international studies. Food unavailability & security is the number one driver of disease and mortality. Indian government has taken strides in reducing its malnutrition dilemma and much still needs to be done before the country can reach the global targets. Various government initiatives have been launched over the years, which seek to improve the nutrition status in the country and ensure food security.

Along with all these projects, mainly focused on supporting the underprivileged and undernourished, it is equally important to simultaneously work towards nutrition literacy for the entire nation. It is the key to not only alleviate the problems of malnutrition in the country but also to empower the people of the nation to make informed food choices. It will provide them with the knowledge, skills and motivation needed for lifelong healthy eating habits.

Schools are ideal settings for promoting healthy eating which can last a lifetime. Healthy children make a healthy nation. Unfortunately, rarely do any schools implement nutrition science as an essential part of the school curriculum. Isn’t it the need of our future generation? Nutrition itself is an extremely vast topic and is often incorporated into the national syllabus as a fractional part of general science, which completely defeats the purpose of sustained positive health outcomes of our children. The government can positively influence our education system by introducing Nutrition as an independent subject in school curricula. It is a good strategy to promote and ensure that the generations ahead are on the path to good health. This will have a direct link to the health of the country’s future workforce, which when healthier will be able to create better work- based outputs and productivity.

School children are the current and future consumers and future parents. They are also an important link between school, home and the community. Since school children are at a critical age for forming good dietary habits, nutrition education will help facilitate the voluntary adoption of eating and other nutrition-related behaviors conducive to health and well-being. Children will grow into more productive adults who are able to boost a country’s economic development and also pass good practices on to future generations. Early Childhood Nutrition Education in schools is a low cost, practical and sustainable investment for the government and schools to make, so as to reap lifelong benefits for generations to come.

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