Food Glorious Food: How Childhood Nutrition Affects Your Whole Life
By Charity RightNov 25, 2021
We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” While that may be true for many of us, what about the 462 million in the world who are underweight? More importantly, what about the 165 million children who are chronically malnourished?
What we eat is important at any age, but it’s absolutely pivotal for a child. Nutrition in your childhood influences your health and chances for the rest of your life. But why?
“Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth.” – Al-Baqarah, verse 168
Adults need food to function in everyday life. Children need food to function in everyday life too, but also so they can grow.
38% of children from the least developed countries have their growth stunted by malnutrition. They also suffer from health issues caused by a weakened immune system, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, deaf-mutism and other chronic diseases.
Not only do children need nutrition, but a balanced diet rather than eating anything they can find. Calcium strengthens bones, protein builds muscle, carbohydrates give energy and iron makes the blood healthy. Children need a well-rounded, balanced diet for proper nutrition that gives their body the building blocks to grow healthily.
But there’s more than health. Children may complain about eating healthily, but if you spend any time around them, you’ll see how much they benefit from it. Although proper nutrition offers a healthy life, it also gives children the energy to enjoy their childhood and live life to the full.
With proper nutrition, they can play tag and football, climb a tree, dive into a sandpit or play with a skipping rope. These are all vital parts of childhood that help them process the world and enjoy themselves. Without proper nutrition, children are robbed of their childhood before they’ve even had a chance.
“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your brain is always on, even when you’re asleep. It never stops – although on restless nights sometimes we wish it did!
It needs a constant supply of energy. In fact, brains use more energy than any other organ, over 20% of your daily energy intake. And only one thing can give the brain the fuel to run: food.
Even your mood is affected by lack of proper nourishment. Your gut is linked to emotion – when you eat, your body produces serotonin that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. That’s why you get cranky when you’re hungry and get a boost of giddiness when you open the fridge to find a snack.
But the brain is most important for children when they’re at school. With a steady influx of food like fish, broccoli and berries, they’ll improve their cognitive functions and memory. Sadly, a lack of proper nourishment affects memory, attentiveness, and learning. If children struggle when they’re young, it will only get harder to improve when they’re older.
Malnourished children score 7% lower in maths and are 19% less likely to be able to read by 8-years-old. On the other hand, well-nourished children are 13% more likely to be in the correct year at school and learn lifelong skills.
Sadly though, 130 million children in school are so undernourished they fail to learn the basics and leave school without the core skills they need.
Malnutrition stunting growth has a direct effect on future earnings. One study found even just a 1% increase in height can lead to a 2.4% increase in salary. Size and height can be a great predictor in earnings, but it’s especially important in agriculture or other jobs involving manual labour. Since these malnourished children are unable to acquire cognitive skills and educational qualifications in school, those agricultural and manual labour jobs are mostly all they will be able to get.
With poor health and education, this affects children’s job prospects as they get older. These disadvantages cut their future earnings by an estimated 20% - although some studies suggest up to 66%. As a result, their children will also be malnourished and suffer the same disadvantages their parents did. It’s a vicious cycle that’s doomed to repeat…
But we can break that cycle!
“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
One child dies of malnutrition every 15 seconds… and causes 2.3 million children to die each year. To put that into some context, that’s 31 times the capacity of Old Trafford stadium. Each year.
For those who survive, malnutrition still plagues their lives. Those children do not receive the opportunities they need to grow healthily and succeed in school. They’re not given the chance to escape.
The real tragedy is that there’s a really simple solution – food.
That’s why we need you. Just £10 will give a child school meals for a whole month – a month of healthy living, a month of learning, a month that’ll get them one step closer to an escape from food poverty.
All we need is a small donation from you. We’ll take care of the rest!