Written By: Javier P.
At SOS, we believe that every child matters. In all of our areas of impact, caring for children is at the core of what we do. The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical to their development. Everything that happens in that time can impact the trajectory of their lives, in the best or worst of ways. You may already know that one of our areas of impact is food, and the types of food that children need are the foods that we work to provide. Here are the reasons why nutritional foods and availability are so important.
Nutritious foods are essential for providing the necessary nutrients for children’s physical and mental health. In the first five years of a child’s life, their brain and body are in a crucial stage of their development. Vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, such as zinc, iron, and iodine, are vital to healthy brain and body development.
The significance for the brain is that it develops more in the first five years than it does at any other time in life. The growth of the brain depends on a steady intake of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients; a lack of any of these elements is magnified because of how sensitive the brain is during this time. As they begin to learn about the world and begin to develop their understanding of it, their nutrition has a big role to play in making sure that they are able to learn and absorb information effectively.
In the body, a lack of any of the important nutrients can lead to numerous issues such as growth retardation, behavioral abnormalities, and a compromised immune system. This is the time that the body builds up good defenses against chronic diseases. Good nutrition in the first five years sets a good trajectory for their health and development throughout their adolescence.
When it comes to providing meals for children, the solution is not simply to feed them with whatever we can give them. It is important to intentionally choose foods that will help them to be healthy now, so they can learn to be healthy in the future. It is not just vital, but a right for children to have access to these foods for their health and safety.
The Impact of Food Insecurity
One of the major contributors to child mortality around the world is malnutrition. Malnutrition is caused by deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients, or impaired nutrient utilization. Basically, a malnourished child has access to food, but not enough food or not the right kinds of food. When it comes to malnourishment, the image that typically comes to mind is of an underweight child. However, that is only one aspect of malnutrition, as obesity is another form of malnutrition.
Studies have shown that a lack of access to nutritious foods can lead to the overeating of cheaper, less nutritious foods; the end result of this is obesity. These foods are known as “comfort foods” or “junk foods” that are high in fat, sodium, sugar, and carbs and provide little nutritional value. Malnutrition of any form takes a toll on the body and in effect can lead to various chronic illnesses. This is why foods filled with nutrients are so important to children and their overall health. Junk foods are not beneficial to children and their development.
Food security is also a crucial part of keeping children safe from traffickers. Children and families who do not have access to nutritional foods are more vulnerable to traffickers. Traffickers take advantage of those who do not have their basic needs met, with food being just one of them. When children’s basic needs are met, their world is more secure.
The Importance of Food
The significance of early childhood development and the threat of food insecurity tells us that kids need nutritious foods. Their lives are greatly impacted by the nutrition they get as a child. Young children do not know what foods they need; they need access to those healthy foods and for someone to feed them. Nutritious foods are necessary for healthy growth and development, and it is also important to keep kids safe from traffickers. That’s why we work to provide the food that children need all around the world.