A focus on quality of diet and nutrition awareness is extremely essential to prevent stunting, wasting and other forms of malnutrition. According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018 of Pakistan, 40.2 % of children under 5 years of age in Pakistan have stunted growth, while 18 % suffer from high micronutrient deficiency levels.
The emergence of novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) also highlighted how important immunity is to fight such diseases. Year on year studies suggest that children undergoing malnutrition have suppressed immunity and are more likely to catch the infectious diseases.
One of the major issues aiding child malnutrition is nutritional illiteracy among parents and teachers. To mitigate this issue, it is essential that caregivers – parents and teachers - are made aware of the importance of healthy nutrition among children. This was the impetus behind the launch of the Nestlé for Healthier Kids (N4HK). The N4HK program is Nestlé’s global nutritional awareness initiative, which empowers parents, teachers, and caregivers to foster healthier eating, drinking and lifestyle habits among school-age children. It is a curriculum-based education program to encourage healthier eating and lifestyle habits among school-age children and gives guidance on how to adopt good hygiene habits, such as hand washing and food safety. In Pakistan, the program has reached out to about 250,000 children and 1,300 teachers and aims to reach out to more than 300,000 children in Pakistan by 2022.
In March this year, N4HK launched an exciting drawing contest to engage creative capacities of children during these challenging times. This campaign had the following drawing themes: 'I’m active, I exercise’; ‘I eat healthy’; and 'I love water’. The thematic areas were selected after careful consideration since one of the key purposes of this activity was to educate the children about healthy habits and give them an opportunity to become more aware of an active lifestyle and expressing the same through their artworks. The children participating were asked to submit their artwork entries to the N4HK panel of judges via
email. In total, more than 1000 entries rolled in from across Pakistan. The contest engaged their creative minds and gave participants a chance to prove and improve their skills while encouraging them to express their imagination and present self-expression through original pieces of artwork.
The Nestlé for Healthier Kids program launched various exciting and fun learning contests and activities to engage children. In 2020, N4HK introduced worksheets on nutrition and health in its partner schools and launched an online essay contest campaign which were both engaging and impactful educational activities and inspired students to understand and educate themselves on the pertinent issues. The essay contest campaign resulted in numerous entries from across Pakistan as well as from Pakistani expat families living abroad in the Philippines, Qatar, Jordan, UAE, and United States.
The essay writing and drawing contests nurtured a healthy competition amongst the children and the topics of both were aimed at encouraging students to learn the importance of hydration, active lifestyle, and the role of healthy eating and good nutrition and how it contributes towards a healthier immune system hence, fortifying ones’ protections against any virus. This self-awareness helped children in becoming more conscious and careful about their health to make better nutrition decisions from an early age for a healthier future.
One of the key successes of these campaigns was that the school-going kids who were confined in their homes spent their time in a productive and informed way. They were given a platform to express their imagination and highlight their creativity. Technology was one of the key enablers for making these activities a huge success as children were able to do extensive research and given the relevance of the topic, they were keen to learn more. The contests enabled children to share this knowledge with family members as well, and in fact, we received extensive feedback especially from parents appreciating our campaign.
Nestlé for Healthier Kids program is part of our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 of Good Health and Well-Being, to ensure that children understand the value of nutrition and physical activity and continue leading healthy lives as they grow older. The SDGs set a new course for nutrition and human development. As highlighted by experts, nutrition is both maker and a marker of development. Improved nutrition can be used as the platform for progressing in terms of health, education, employment, empowerment of women, and the reduction of poverty and inequality.