Unilever with Astra to improve child nutrition
The children of Pu/Mahakumbukkadawala Junior School in Anamaduwa were introduced to a fresh new way of life when the health and educational authorities of the area collaborated with Unilever Sri Lanka and its leading food brand, Astra Margarine, to launch a year-long nutritional program at the school.
In consultation with the Zonal Education authorities, the Regional Health Authorities and the PHI Association it was decided to take the lead in improving the nutrition of these schoolchildren, as studies had shown that the level of malnutrition in this school is higher than the national average in Sri Lanka.
“Protein energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are problems among school children in Sri Lanka, especially in rural areas. About one fourth of the students in Sri Lanka are suffering from some form of malnutrition and nutrition deficiencies. Some of the key reasons for this problem are poverty, lack of awareness about locally available nutritious food, and skipping main meals such as breakfast”, says Dr. Renuka Silva, Senior Lecturer of Nutrition at the Wayabma University.
In light of these findings, Astra, with the expertise of the Nutrition Department of the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, has partnered the local health authorities, to develop an initiative of providing a balanced midday meal for the students of Mahakumbukkadawala Junior School.
Providing a multi-dimensional solution
This project is structured on providing a multi-dimensional solution to tackle the issue of malnutrition. The first aspect is providing the actual midday meal for the children, for which the menus have been designed by the Nutrition Department of Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. The second aspect is building the infrastructure required to make this a sustainable model for the school. This has involved the construction of a fully equipped kitchen, a school garden to cultivate fresh produce for the meals, and sanitation facilities for the children.
The third dimension has been providing access to safe water by setting up a drinking water facility with the installation of a Reverse Osmosis filter, and enabling pipe water access for hand washing and toilets. The final and most crucial dimension of the project is building awareness and educating both parents and teachers on nutrition, health, and hygiene; which will be designed by the Wayamba University and led by the Medical Officers of Health and the PHI Association.
President of the Public Health Inspectors’ Association Mr. Upul Rohana stated “Marking the 100 years of establishment of the PHI service, we planned to improve the Mahakumbukkadawala Junior School up to the standards of a Health Promoting school. With the contribution of the Unilever Sri Lanka, we were able to establish a complete kitchen, school garden, drinking water and proper sanitation facilities at the school”,
Speaking on the project, Marketing Director for Foods at Unilever Sri Lanka, Mrs. Ramani Samarasundera stated, “Astra Margarine is an iconic brand in the country, which has been in the forefront of providing good nutrition to growing kids for over 4 decades.
Astra is committed to addressing the all important issue of child nutrition across the island. In line with this commitment, Astra is privileged to partner the Medical Officers of Health of the area, the PHI Association and Wayamba University of Sri Lanka to launch this initiative. Such partnerships and community contribution have played a key role in this project, which is strengthened by the teachers and parents of the school.
The teachers will play a role in enabling the children to cultivate the school garden and whilst the parents will be cooking the midday meals for their own children. The Unilever community too got involved in this project by spending their time and effort raising funds to buy shoes and school supplies for the students.”
In line with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever Sri Lanka is committed to improving the health and well-being of millions across the country through projects such as this. The project commenced on the 5th of February 2014, with the first day of school feeding.
258 M. Vincent Perera Mw
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