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mproving child nutrition in Asia-Pacific

Improving child nutrition in Asia-Pacific through expansion of school and home gardens

13/07/2015, Bangkok, Thailand – Expanding the introduction of gardens at schools and homes across Asia and the Pacific could result in an enormous improvement in nutrition, especially for children, an FAO convened regional consultation on promoting school and home gardens to improve nutrition heard today.

While vegetable gardening at homes to supplement food, and at schools to teach students about nature, is not a new idea, FAO member countries and partners believe that the knowledge gained and harvests reaped from home and school gardens could dramatically help improve childhood nutrition.

“School gardens can contribute to improving children's and parent’s knowledge of food production techniques and nutrition, and stimulate the further development of home gardens while serving as a platform for providing basic agricultural knowledge and skills that can contribute to increasing interest of pupils in engaging in agriculture and farming,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative.

The need for improved nutrition, especially among children, is critical with chronic undernutrition affecting 161 million stunted children worldwide, half of whom live in Asia.

“Despite significant progress over the past two decades, stunting of children remains a serious problem in our region, as high as 40 percent in several countries, and it is a problem that prevails in all countries of Southern Asia and most countries of Southeast Asia,” said Konuma. “About 51 million children below the age of five are wasting and nearly 100 million children are underweight.”

“At the same time obesity rates have increased drastically in some countries with some 18 million under-fives overweight, a trend that is increasing,” Konuma added.

Schools have an enormous potential to promote good nutrition, healthy diets and help address both the immediate and underlying causes of food and nutrition problems, Konuma pointed out. Millions of children enter school nutritionally deprived, continue to be nutritionally deprived while in school, and carry a high burden of disease. Poor nutrition and health are obstacles to children’s physical and cognitive growth and development, thus impeding their educational achievement in school and diminishing their prospects for good health, well-being, achievement and productivity as adults.

“Local food production, such as integrated home gardens and school gardens, can have immediate impact on food security and the potential to contribute to long term national goals of better nutrition,” Konuma said. “Elementary schools provide an excellent setting for promoting lifelong healthy eating and improving long- term, sustainable nutrition security, while a well-developed home garden can supply most of the non-staple foods that a family needs. For mothers and young children in particular, more variety, more micronutrient rich fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference in their health and growth.”

The profile and priority of nutrition and improving the diets of all populations has been strongly emphasized by last year’s Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), co-organized by FAO and WHO, and the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and Framework for Action adopted by the Conference. Improving child nutrition and reducing the rate of stunting remain priorities in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the Zero Hunger Challenge.

ENDS

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