We travelled to a place called Chittalapakkam today, where we discussed nutrition first with very small children and then with their mothers. We met in a balwadi or creche. We discussed the importance of fruits and vegetables, drinking milk, and washing hands. After this, we went to someone’s home, which was really a hut, and made high-nutritionrotis (indian flatbread) out of wheat flour and gram flour, carrots, spinach, and other vegetables. They were made with minimal oil and and not fried. We took these back to the balwadi, distributed them to the children, and discussed them with the mothers.
It was actually interesting to see what the mothers know. Some know that carrots are high in vitamin A, which is good for the eyes. Others still think eggs aren’t good for kids who have jaundice. The level of general education is very low in these communities – among everyone but especially among the women. But the health education is somewhat reasonable in the places that are being reached by the government health centers, which speaks well for Tamil Nadu’s implementation of the national health programs.
One program that we saw here was the mid-day meal scheme. Under this scheme, children are fed a well-balanced meal, including an egg, everyday for lunch at the creche and even at the schools, up to the 7th grade, I believe. This serves two purposes: one, at least one good meal per day for the children, lowering incidence and severity of malnutrition, and two, incentive for parents to send their children to school. This is another highly successful program.