Providing Students with Nutrition in Cambodia

How our Food & Farming Programme & Breakfast Programme are tackling Nutrition Issues in Cambodia

According to the National Nutrition Strategy report, Cambodia has made great progress in tackling child malnutrition issues. However, malnutrition rates among children under 5 remain some of the highest in the region.

In addition, Cambodia is still among the most affected countries in the world for maternal and child malnutrition. Statistics from UNICEF Cambodia show that children under 5 years are:

  • 44% are chronically malnourished
  • 8% are acutely malnourished
  • 28% are underweight
  • 32% are too short in relation to their age
  • 62% are anemic

According to the data, many children under 5 years are suffering from preventable diseases and consequently, the mortality rate is high. In fact, it is higher than the population growth rate. Additionally, those that do survive undernourishment as a child, show reduced cognitive ability and productivity in their teenage and adult years.

Nutritious Breakfast for Helping Hands Students!

In order to address this issue Globalteer developed a healthy breakfast programme at Helping Hands.

The breakfast programme at Helping Hands started in 2010. The school is located in a rural area, approximately 25km from Siem Reap. Standards of living are much lower in rural areas of Cambodia and poverty rates higher. Families often live on less than one dollar a day and cannot afford much more than rice for meals. Meaning that most people are not getting the nutrients they need. Consequently, if children don’t receive appropriate nutrients, they are more likely to suffer from anemia and other serious diseases.

Globalteer aims to elevate the physical and mental capacity of the students by providing well rounded, nutritious meals to the students. The breakfast programme provides Helping Hands students with important nutrients that they would otherwise be lacking. Helping Hands' director works closely with the cooks to make sure they provide a breakfast filled with the nutrients the students need.

Additionally, with an empty stomach, it is difficult for the students to focus on the lessons and be effective during class. Therefore, the free breakfast ensures that students have at least one nutritious meal a day. It helps their health and gives them energy to learn, grow and play!

In 2019, Helping Hands provided 23,010 nutritious breakfasts to it's students!

Food & Farming Programme

The food & farming programme helps support the breakfast programme at Helping Hands by growing fresh produce on site to use in the breakfast. As poverty and malnutrition is prevalent throughout the country; it is not simply enough to provide breakfast. We want to make sure that the students are getting the nutrients they need to help reduce micro-nutrient deficiencies. The programme also teaches the students how to effectively grow their own fresh produce.

The on-site garden at Helping Hands grows a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs to be harvested and used in the student's meals. The garden is looked after and manage by the staff at the project, with some help from the students.

Breakfast Time!

The nutritious breakfast is served each morning at at 8:20am. The meals are basic but include the nutrients that the children need most.  While the base of the meal is generally the same, the vegetables used vary depending on what is grown, seasonal, and ready for harvest in the garden at that time. Two of the types of breakfast the students received are:

  • Khmer porridge: rice, fish and vegetables
  • Rice served with an egg omelette and vegetables

There are two cooks at school who tend to the garden and cook the breakfasts. The cooks ensure the kids get their protein (either fish or eggs), vitamins (vegetables), and carbohydrates (rice). The breakfasts are prepared in the school’s kitchen and often teachers help the cooks with the preparation.

The school is also provided with clean water, thanks to one of our local partners at the Clean Water Project who provided bio-sand water filters. Thankfully, the vegetables can be washed safely in clean water before preparation. This programme has also led to dental hygiene lessons which enables and encourages the children to perform proper teeth cleaning habits after eating.

In an effort to support local community businesses, healthy snacks and drinks are also available at school. If children want an additional cold beverage or snack, they can purchase some at very low prices. This helps support local families by providing them with a little more income.

With a well-balanced breakfast the students are full of energy, healthy and ready for a day at school.

Help from Volunteers!

While improvements have been made in child nutrition in the region, more is still needed to reduce malnutrition rates. Reaching high-risk populations in rural areas is essential to reduce the mortality rate of young children.

The staff at Helping Hands work very hard to grow vegetables in the garden for the breakfast programme. But providing healthy breakfasts for 300+ students year round is no easy task. This is where volunteers can make a big difference with our Cambodia Food & Farming project! The help that volunteers provide in the garden is invaluable. So if you ever want to put your gardening and farming skills to use helping children abroad, we would love to see you here!