July 8, 2014

Simple Steps to Good Nutrition in Vietnam

Training on different groups of nutritious food. Photo: CWS

In the Vietnam community of Muong Te, among the poorest districts in the country, parents of kindergarten students in Nam Cau village have started along the path to improved nutrition after having completed a training for awareness raising in food nutrition and a cooking demonstration featuring a nutritious rice soup. 

“Twenty-three villagers, mostly women and their little children, and four kindergarten staff members participated in the training held by CWS staff,” reports CWS Vietnam’s Program Manager Ngo Quoc Dung.

The training is part of a three-year integrated nutrition, health and hygiene project underway in this rural district of Lai Chau province in the northwest region of Vietnam. Other program components include the planting of small vegetable gardens by students at primary and lower secondary schools to provide nutritious food for the school’s boarding students.  Dung says the garden project “helps the students learn skills that are considered beneficial to both themselves and their parents.” 

The child nutrition project is part of a larger CWS program that also features activities aimed at raising villagers’ awareness of and access to good health practices, including the building and use of hygienic latrines and regular washing of hands with soap.  As an added value, children who learn the good hygiene practices that help prevent the spread of disease share their newfound knowledge with their families and neighbours.

Preparing rice and beans for the soup Photo: CWS

As for the cooking demonstration, villagers now have learned how to prepare a simple, nutritious soup that includes not just rice but also the vegetables, fat, and protein so important to good health.  They also have learned healthy ways to prepare meals using readily available local products, such substituting fish, shells or beans for meat to add protein to meals and by using peanuts to add fat.

There still is work to be done to accomplish sweeping improvements in local nutrition, as Dung is well aware.  “I think it’s still a long way to make the change in their daily cooking because people usually have rice, vegetables and some dried fishes for meals and they have no money to buy additional nutritious foods,” but the CWS project is an important step in making good nutrition accessible for children in communities where up to 90 percent of the families live in poverty.