Visions of Hope: Nutrition

Daily nutritional supplements address children's deficiencies in fiber, vitamins and minerals
daily fresh milk at Nava Shakti

Since 2006 the Project no longer aims to provide children with their basic daily calorie intake (since with few exceptions they get that at home) and focus instead upon addressing nutritional imbalances, especially deficiencies in fiber, vitamins and minerals. We do this by providing the children (and staff) with a daily nutritional snack consisting of fresh cow's milk, fresh fruit (local and in season, like banana, papaya, pineapple, sometimes mango), dried fruit like dates or raisins, and boiled legumes (like mung beans, black-eyed peas, and chick peas) or peanuts, etc.

These are foods that are emphatically not in the children's home diets, despite the need of growing children for fresh fruit and dairy products. The reason for this lack of milk and fruit is that Pandiruppu is a densely settled coastal community where there is no room for cows or vegetable gardens, and the sandy soil is poorly suited for agriculture anyway. So poor families (VoH Project serves the 'poor' side of Pandiruppu, the beach side) in Pandiruppu can scarcely afford to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, let alone fresh milk even for their children, even when they might be aware of the value or need.

Hence, we aim to address the deficiencies in children's diets only rather than to try to feed them outright. So our resources for nutrition are used mainly for dose-sized portions of relatively expensive foods like fruit and milk. It is worth noting that we also refrain from adding sugar or sweeteners except dates and occasional honey or molasses to our daily snacks, to let the children grow accustomed to the more subtle natural sweetness.

Our nutrition program too is being executed thanks to the expertise and attention to detail of Dinah Barton, who provided the staff with instructions so that the balance of vitamins and minerals in the fruits is maintained, for example, and so dates are included daily as they are particularly nutritious and economical.