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Improving the nutrient content of the lunch boxes of children in Early Childhood Development Centers in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa through parent programs: Baseline nutrition survey results

Odwour Erich Midigo.

Earlier research from Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) showed a double burden of both chronic underweight and overweight in the same vulnerable communities. Lunch boxes that parents pack for children attending ECD centers have been noted to fall short of the recommended dietary standards. Despite this, no similar research has been done with the parents concerning the content of the lunchboxes and if nutrition education strategies can improve the lunchbox content. The primary aim of the study is to improve the nutrient content of the lunchboxes of the preschool children through parent programs. It is hoped that this will help increase access to healthy lunch boxes among preschool children in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Ethical approval for this study was obtained from Nelson Mandela University. During February 2018, 485 participants from preschools in underprivileged areas were weighed and measured by trained fieldworkers to determine the weight-for-age Z-score, height-for-age Z-score and weight-for-height Z-score using the WHO Anthro.
The baseline nutrition survey results from 381 participants (age range 5-60 months) showed that 2.4% (n=9) of the participants were wasted, 14.5% (n= 55) stunted, 3.7% severely stunted (n=14) and 14.9% (n=57) underweight. The most wasted age group of the children was between 36-47 months 5.2% (n=6) while the most severely stunted age group was between 6-11 months 12.5% (n=8). Similarly, the same age group (6-11 months) registered the highest underweight percentage 12.5% (n=8). On the other hand, 37.2% (n=141) of the children were overweight. The overweight children were between 12-23 months of age. Findings indicate a double burden of disease in the form of stunting and overweight present in the same geographical populations.
This implies that any nutrition intervention should be targeted to the needs of specific individuals. In addition, urgent preventative strategies are needed to investigate the causes of this double burden and the potential contribution that parents can make to prevent this.

Key words: Lunchboxes, early childhood development centers, overweight, underweight, wasting, stunting,malnutrition, parent programs, Nelson Mandela Bay

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American Journal of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology


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