In a bid to curb malnutrition amongst children in and out of school, Helen Keller International, in partnership with the Lagos State government, has engaged 6,000 pupils in nine public primary schools within Ikeja local government area and members of the community, which it believes would help promote the consumption of diverse micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables through smart farming.
Speaking during the Helen Keller International Harvest Fair held at Agidingbi Primary school, Ikeja, Lagos, the Country Director, Philomena Orji, said the nutrition and healthy lifestyles project, funded by the Mondelez International Foundation, was aimed to support schools and communities to reach the under-served children in Nigeria through innovative ways to end food insecurity and malnutrition.
Speaking further, she said this was geared towards creating school and community environments that encourage children and families to adopt lifelong healthy habits, while targeting direct reach of 6,000 children in primary schools, and indirect reach of about 48,000 out-of-school children and their families across various Community Development Areas.
“We have trained teachers, parents, and community development officers on techniques for cultivating diverse micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, with the aim of improving the production and consumption of such through school gardening and small spaces using recycled containers, used tyres to grow crops,” Orji said.
On her part, the Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services, Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Mrs. Belinda Odeneye Aderonke, appreciated Helen Keller International in assisting vulnerable and less-privileged persons.
Aderonke, who was represented by the Ministry’s Nutrition Desk Officer, Falaye Aderemi Aina, said everyone must be worried about food insecurity, famine, and what ways to improve the livelihood of Nigerians generally.
“Today, the world is faced with double burden of malnutrition that includes both undernutrition and overweight, especially in low and middle income countries, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) providing scientific advice and decision making tools that can help countries take action to address it and to support health and wellbeing for everyone,” she said.
According to the permanent secretary, studies show that garden-based nutrition education improves students’ eating habits by increasing their knowledge of preference for and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as increasing physical activity.
“Gardens in schools provide students with a real-time look at how food is grown. There are different models for how these gardens work, but children of different ages have regular lessons in the garden, learning how to grow, harvest and prepare a variety of fruits and vegetables,” she stated.