Oct 282009

Every child deserves to be healthy; the proverb “healthy body, healthy mind” says it all; access to a good nutritious meal and developing healthy eating habits are vital for every child’s well being. In 2009, HCI introduced the “Farm to School Program” in Lebanon, where small scale farmers, low income students, and unemployed women living in rural areas were all linked in a holistic socio-economical cycle. The approach of the program has proven its efficiency and is a great success as stated by the beneficiaries themselves. To this date, hundreds of school-aged children have received several nutritious meals, learned about the path from farm to fork and have been provided with basic necessary information on healthy eating habits.

The program was specifically designed to target low income school-aged children, most of which are direct victims of war and scarcity and have to bear the difficult consequences of violence and deprivation that affects them and their families on many levels; whether on the income provided by the head of the family or on the quality of their meals at home. Dietary deficiencies can affect short-term health, increasing the risk of dental problems, obesity and anemia. In the long term, poor diet may increase the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Some cancers are believed to relate to a low intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. Under-nutrition, even in its milder forms can have detrimental effects on cognitive development, behavior, concentration and school performance.

While implementing the Farm to School Program it was evident that complementary awareness raising activities concerning education and health should be implemented with the parents and care givers of these children giving them valuable essential tips on: healthy eating practices, food safety, hygiene and how to promote healthy eating and lifestyle habits, that can last a lifetime through specially designed engaging workshops and printed materials; Human Concern International is proud to announce the completion of the “Sohatak Bel Deni” manual, providing parents, teachers and caregivers with detailed essential information about cooking healthy food at low cost among other things.

The specially designed manual is a result of research done by a team of nutritionists and agricultural engineers and takes into consideration the access of the low income households to certain food items, as much as it takes in consideration the lack of access of these families to healthy living choices, and the common misconceptions about what is nutritive and what is not. The manual explains the ABC’s of what is healthy and what is not in an accessible format, it should be noted that the manual is not designed to alter the lifestyle of these families, but rather to reorganize their eating habits while keeping their financial budget intact.

The thirty-one-page Arabic manual is full of valuable information; from easy to understand food pyramids to recommendations on healthy eating habits such as consuming Omega 3 rich foods at least twice a week, from food safety advice such as the best way to handle and store poultry, to healthy cooking practices such as the use of vegetable oils instead of traditional ghee. A menu suggestion with recipes for healthy versions of traditional foods such as Okra stew and yoghurt salad is also included, each with its own calorie, Protein and carbohydrate breakdown. HCI did not forget to include an activity page for the children to color and have fun while learning.

Human Concern International is proud to publish and distribute this resource to enable communities, schools and caregivers to plan better meals for their children and by doing so contribute to their general overall physical and mental health and to their school attendance. The Arabic manual will be launched in various low income and rural locations around Lebanon, complemented with specially formulated awareness raising sessions held by qualified nutritionists; it can also be downloaded here free-of-charge in PDF format (7.74 MB): Sohatak Bel Deni Manual

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