The importance of nutrition
Good nutrition is essential for a growing child – especially one who is born into poverty. We already know that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and nutrition plays an important role in a child’s educational experience.
The effects of malnutrition begin before a child is even born. The most critical period of growth and development for a child occurs from pregnancy through age 2 – good nutrition during this period will benefit the child throughout her entire life, and the damage resulting from poor nutrition will also last a lifetime.
Throughout childhood, nutrition continues to be a critical factor in keeping children healthy and free of disease. It also impacts a child’s ability to learn. Studies show that malnourished children score lower on tests, are less likely to be able to read by age 8, and lose out on at least 20% of their lifetime earning potential. According to UNICEF, today’s malnourished children could cost the global economy 125 billion dollars as adults.
What does this have to do with kitchens?
As you can imagine, cooking for hundreds of kids every single day is no easy feat. But what if you didn’t even have a kitchen? Instead, you have to cook three meals every day on an outdoor wood-fired oven. Where would you store your food? How would you chop vegetables? How would you clean your pots and pans and utensils? These are the challenges that Nirmala Home for Children faces every day. The cooks are responsible for feeding 347 children, yet they have no kitchen.
Sister Lourdu Mary, the administrator, writes:
“At present we have no closed kitchen. The cooks have to cook outside with firewood, which is harder especially in the rainy season. It affects the hygienic condition of the home and also it makes pollution in the atmosphere.”
Without a kitchen, the foods are often ravaged by rodents, and spoil prematurely due to improper storage. It is hard enough to provide enough nutritious food without these added challenges. Nirmala Home for Children needs an indoor kitchen, with adequate ventilation, equipment, and space for proper food storage.
Three other homes need kitchen improvements
Other homes have also requested kitchen improvements as part of our No Place Like Home campaign: Assunta Asha Nilayam, St. Anthony’s, and Katihar Boys’ Home.
Father Xavier tells us more about the kitchen at Katihar Boys’ Home:
“There are more than 200 boys in the home and we have to cook three times a day for the children. Our kitchen has got an asbestos roof and it is broken in many places. During the rainy season, a lot of water comes into the kitchen. The walls too are very shaky. The gap between the bricks on the wall is quite large. The water from the building falls on the kitchen roof and some of it leaks into the kitchen.”
What a difference a kitchen makes!
Here are a few examples of kitchens that we’ve built, and the difference it has made in the children’s lives.
Sister Shanthi, Bethel’s former administrator, described the situation in the “before” photo:
“We were really struggling in our old kitchen and dining hall to cook and serve the food for the children as it was in deplorable condition and it was filled with water during the rainy season as the building was very old and leaking from the roof and side walls. Sometimes we used to give the food to the children in the school corridor and the children have to eat standing or with the plastic sheets on their heads.”
And now the children have this to say:
“We want to express our thanks. Really, you have helped us in many ways by helping in the construction of the new kitchen and dining hall. Really we were struggling to eat the food, as we could not sit properly and could not eat heartily. We all promise that we will keep our living rooms, the dining hall and our surroundings clean and tidy, and we do our best in our studies, so that in future we will help other children to come up in life.”
You can help put our children on the path to success
Long-term success begins in childhood. This means giving our children the resources they need to stay healthy and do well in school. For our kids, success starts in the kitchen.