You cannot learn if you are hungry. Eating regular healthy meals and receiving enough food is necessary to perform at your best. That is why The Kiran Anjali Project funds nutrition programs at partner projects. It has made a tremendous impact on the overall health of the children and on their educational progress.
Nutrition is often a gender issue for low-income families in India. When there is limited food in the home, the mother and daughters tend to receive less, since men tend to eat first and have access to whatever is available.1 Even if the parents can and do send both their daughters and sons to school, their son many times receives food in higher quantity and quality.2 They may still want their daughter to do well, but the resources are often given to the son. Due to cultural male preference, many families invest in their son as their social security for the future. Daughters may be devalued, seen as a financial burden due to costs of getting her married. Once she is married, she will be expected to move in with her husband’s family and take care of them into old age. She won’t be there to take care of her parents. When I read about this, it gave me insight into the complexity of gender inequality and how it plays out on a daily basis at mealtimes. If I was a daughter in a lower income household and I was placed in a situation where I had to always watch my brother receive more food, I would probably be accustomed to it. However, I would definitely want change and access to more food. Then seeing my mother push some of her share onto my plate, knowing that she needed it, would make me feel guilty. It is quite disturbing to understand how many girls from lower-income households in India can feel this sentiment for simply needing a basic necessity.
It is more complicated than just making sure girls are in school. Our mission is making sure she has all the resources, including food, to do well. A study that took place in a rural part of Bangalore found that students attending private schools who had access to proper nutrition were earning higher scores on tests in the classroom.3 This makes a lot of sense since decreased concentration, forgetfulness, being late, and absenteeism are often associated with lack of proper nutrition and food scarcity.4 It is easy to see how poor grades and overall performance would be the result of hunger and inadequate nutrition.
Our partner programs try to combat malnutrition so that the children they serve will thrive. This is dramatically seen at Baale Mane, a residential home for girls who have been neglected or abandoned. When a girl joins Baale Mane, she is usually in a very deprived state. Many girls have been living on the streets scraping for what they can find in garbage cans or in environments where food is withheld as punishment for not bringing home income from begging. The staff at Baale Mane give them ample food and their health restores. Often times, the emotional recovery takes a little longer, as some girls remain afraid they will not get enough food and hoard supplies. Eventually, they begin to trust and relax since they know food will always be available. There is impact at Carnation Learning Center and Wings School too. Both programs provide breakfast and lunch, which has been a powerful incentive for parents to make sure their child gets to school every day, since the meals served there may be the only food they receive that day.
The Kiran Anjali Project is committed to combating gender inequality by not only giving girls the opportunity to learn, but also ensuring that they have what they need to succeed, including proper nutrition. A holistic approach is necessary when genuinely wanting to impact lives. Donors like you help girls not only go to school, but also concentrate, participate, and perform to the best of their abilities because they have proper nutrition while at school. Thank you for helping girls in India to have the education they deserve and the nourishment they require.