A growing number of developing countries are faced with a “double burden of malnutrition”: the persistence of undernutrition, especially among children, along with emerging problems of overweight and obesity, and diet-related chronic diseases. Both conditions are often associated with problems of micronutrient deficiencies. Taken together, these problems are significant causes of disability and premature death worldwide. As with many other health-related problems, the children at greatest risk of malnutrition are those from the poorest and most disadvantaged socio-economic groups.
In Asia the “double burden of malnutrition” has become an increasing concern for many countries independent of their economic development. The co-existence of undernutrition and obesity is becoming more widespread and imposes an additional burden on already stretched social and health care services, especially in urban areas.
Improving the nutritional status of school-age children is an effective investment for the future. Schools offer many opportunities to promote healthy dietary patterns, influence lifestyle choices for children and engage parents and community members in preventing children's malnutrition. The universality of the school setting for gaining access to children makes it highly relevant to global efforts to help combat malnutrition in all its forms.
FAO recognizes the important contribution that schools can make in countries’ efforts to address all forms of malnutrition. To support and reinforce these efforts, FAO develops and promotes innovative strategies and materials to assist member countries to plan and implement comprehensive school nutrition education activities and programmes. The aims are to improve the health and nutrition of school children and the entire school community, and to encourage lifelong healthy eating habits and lifestyles.
FAO also promotes activities within schools and communities that enable school children to access safe and nutritious food within the school environment, the family and the community, and provides the information, education and skills needed to empower children, teachers, and families to choose healthy diets and practice lifelong healthy eating habits. Cross-sectoral collaboration among education, agriculture, health and community services is encouraged and the importance of addressing problems of malnutrition through locally appropriate solutions is emphasized.
This report provides a summary of the presentations and discussions on policies and programmes on school based nutrition in some countries in Asia. It also takes note of the national activities related to the International Conference on Nutrition and the World Food Summit: five years later follow up. Outcomes of the working groups and recommendations for FAO and country action to promote school based nutrition are also included.
It is hoped that this document will serve as a useful reference for countries in the region to promote school based nutrition programmes in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific