Nutrition knowledge and practices, and consumption of vitamin A–rich plants by rural Nepali participants and nonparticipants in a kitchen-garden program
Food-based nutrition interventions, including kitchen gardens and nutrition education, offer a potentially sustainable approach to reducing multiple nutritional deficiencies, but they have been poorly evaluated in developing countries. In a poor region of the terai (the flat, subtropical agricultural region that borders on India) in rural Nepal, we developed and evaluated the impact of a nutrition program added to the Market Access for Rural Development (MARD) Project. The primary objective of the MARD Project was to augment household income by increasing the production of high-economic-value crops. The objective of the nutrition program was to increase vitamin A and iron intakes by promoting kitchen gardens (training, technical assistance, and seed distribution) and nutrition education. One-third of the kitchen-garden program participants also attended nutrition education or agricultural training sessions that were part of the MARD Project. The program was evaluated after 36 months by a cross-sectional nutrition survey in 430 MARD households with kitchen gardens and 389 non-MARD control households. The lack of knowledge about nutrition, including the causes, prevention, and treatment of night-blindness and anemia, was remarkable. However, compared with control households, the kitchen-gardens group had significantly more nutrition knowledge (38% vs. 13% knew one of the causes of night-blindness, and 17% vs. 3% knew one of the causes of anemia), were more likely to feed special complementary foods to infants and to preserve food, and consumed more of 16 types of home-produced micronutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. Although the cross-sectional nature of the study limits our ability to attribute these differences to the program, we observed a striking lack of nutrition knowledge in these communities, and a clear opportunity to increase the intake of vitamin A through home production of vitamin A–rich plants.
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Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation. The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.
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