Improving Pediatric Nutrition in Rural China
The program is located at two primary boarding schools in a rural, mountainous area in Guangxi province, which is in the southwestern part of China bordering Vietnam.
Recently, I embarked on a four-day trip to Guangxi Province with Jenny Xu and Tracy Huang from Project HOPE as well as several health care workers from Shanghai and Nanxishan Hospital to follow up on the Abbott Fund Institute of Nutrition Science’s pediatric nutrition program.The program is located at two primary boarding schools in a rural, mountainous area in Guangxi province, which is in the southwestern part of China bordering Vietnam. The students who attend these schools are very poor; many, if not all, are from the Zhuang ethnic minority group that is prominent in this part of China.
Lily Hsu, Program Director at Project HOPE’s Shanghai office, informed me that when the nutrition program was initiated, the children were eating at most two meals a day. And those meals typically consisted of beans and rice. The children were undernourished – even mal-nourished, and their growth was stunted. To combat this problem, the Chinese government started an effort to improve the children’s dietary intake by allocating 3 RMB per child per meal in these poor, rural areas.
We arrived at Nanning airport and drove eight hours along mountain roads to Leye County, where we would be staying. The route we travelled was mountainous, fertile and rural, and it had numerous terraced farms, valleys, streams, rivers, caves, villages, and small towns.
The next day, we travelled to Quanda Primary Boarding School nestled almost at the top of a mountain. The students live at the school during the week because it is too far to travel from their homes and villages each day. The ages of the children at the school range from about 4 to 11 years old.
We were able to observe the children having lunch. Good news – the children’s meals have improved. They were served rice, pork with vegetables and vegetable soup – all in one bowl.
Once their bowls were filled, the children scrambled around the yard looking for a place to sit to eat their meal. The smallest of the children struggled with their hot bowls, but they did not complain. They happily enjoyed their meals.
After lunch, Project HOPE presented the children with school supplies. Xie from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Nanxishan Hospital then conducted a training session for the older children, ages 10 – 13. He discussed proper nutrition and eating habits and encouraged the children to make healthy eating choices.
Jenny Xu and the other health care providers met with the school’s administrators and teachers to discuss the program’s progress.