In India, millions of children are malnourished. But malnutrition in early childhood and the associated lack of important micronutrients – such as iron, vitamin A and zinc – have a significant impact on health and thus on their entire lifes. Iron deficiency causes anemia and fatigue. Vitamin A deficiency impairs vision, leads to night blindness and a higher risk of infection. Susceptibility to chronic diseases increases.
School meals have been shown to combat hunger and improve educational attainment. They provide essential micronutrients equitably across social classes and between genders. In a large-scale program, HarvestPlus provides healthy meals for school children. In this effort, two million children aged 6-10 receive a free, cooked meal at school every day. This is not only vital to children's growth and health, but also motivates the children to stay in school longer – regardless of gender or social status. The better the education the better the perspective on the labor market later on.
To increase the nutrient-density of the school meals they ares prepared with fortified staple crops. These crops are grown by local farmers. Therefor, another important component of the project is the establishment of a local value chains for the production and utilization of the fortified staple crops. Approximately 20,000 entrepreneurial farmers who live near schools are trained on how to grow biofortified crops and market biofortified grains to improve their own household nutrition and that of their community. The farmers will be linked to school food procurement systems, guaranteeing them an offtaker market and livelihoods boost.