PATNA: In a unique initiative, the state education department has introduced the concept of nutrition garden or nutri garden in some of the government schools. The move is aimed at preventing malnutrition among children, sensitizing them about the importance of healthy food and getting them connected to nature.
Under the scheme, students grow vegetables, use the organic waste from their midday meal kitchen to make vermicompost and also learn about nutrient values of different vegetables and fruits practically. The scheme, implemented under Ankuran Pariyojana by education department’s directorate of midday meal and Unicef, had started on a pilot basis in 40 schools in two districts – Purnia and Sitamarhi – last year. The main motive was preventing malnutrition among children coming from economically poor backgrounds.
Citing the data of National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) and Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS 2016-18), an official said the nutritional status of children and adolescents in the state was not encouraging.
For instance, as per NHFS-5, stunting is prevalent among 42.9% of under-five children and 22.9% of them were suffering from wasting. The same survey also revealed that 69.4% are anaemic in the state. Even the adolescents had nutrition issues. As per CNNS data, malnutrition was found in one out of two adolescents between the age group of 10 to 19 years.
Children working in the nutri gardens not only grow vegetables like spinach, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, coriander and fenugreek, but also use them in the midday meal. The children, along with their nodal teacher, are being trained in gardening.
Arvind Kumar, a Class VIII student of Adarsh Ramanand Madhya Vidyalaya, Purnia, said, “From weeding to watering the plants, we do everything on the school premises. It gives me immense happiness when the vegetables grow up. A waste land on the school premises has now been turned into a beautiful vegetable garden,” he said.
UNICEF state nutrition officer Sandip Ghosh expressed satisfaction over the way children have embraced the initiative. “They are not only getting information about a balanced diet, but also adopting healthy food habits. We are witnessing a gradual decrease in food wastage in the midday meal,” said Ghosh.
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