Thailand is known for having one of the best nutritional programs in Asia. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Thailand has successfully dropped child malnutrition from 36% to approximately 8.42% within 30 years.
Thailand’s success stemmed from an in-depth look at growth rates, nutritional education, supplementation of iron and vitamins, as well as a focus on health coverage. It was also one of the primary countries to reach out to the community as a basis for promoting an end to malnutrition – specifically in children.
One method for reducing malnutrition in Thailand among school-aged children is the School Lunch Program, which supplies lunch at no cost to children struggling to maintain a healthy weight, or students who are unable to afford lunch. These lunches also aim to “educate students about desirable eating habits, values, and social manners.”
Students from rural areas have specifically been the victims of malnutrition in Thailand. Although rice is a staple food, the large amount of production does not necessarily correlate with balanced meals or eating a satisfactory amount required for healthy growth, both physically and mentally. Since diet is mainly based on rice, a lack of protein in diets are a large contributor to malnutrition in Thailand; also among the nutrients lacking in diets are iron, iodine and vitamin A.
SLP is currently providing all kindergarten and elementary public schools, reaching about 30,000 schools and 700,000 preschoolers. School Lunch Program currently provides meals for students for 200 days during the school year. The program started off by focusing merely on the amount of meals that were able to reach students. Now the meals are geared around the nutritional value.
With the help from the School Lunch Program many students whose diets are lacking in balance, or worse nonexistent, now receive meals at school that they may not have been able to receive at home.
The meals that Thailand is able to provide to children not only helps their struggle with malnutrition, but also helps with their ability to focus, gain weight, and grow cognitively.
– Rebecca Felcon