10 September 2014

Fathers’ cooking healthy meals for their kids

Erdenebat scoops micronutrient enriched soup into a bowl
© UNICEF Mongolia/2014/Byambaragchaa Magvandorj

Erdenebat, 26 years old, is bent over a stove, carefully stirring the micronutrient enriched thickened rice soup that he has cooked from scratch. After he finishes cooking, Erdenebat turns to the five other fathers in the room and tells them about the nutritional value of the dish. 

Erdenebat is attending a child feeding training session at Tarialan Village Health Center in rural Khuvsgul, northern Mongolia, to learn how to better feed his seven month old daughter.  Erdenebat’s wife is a math teacher at the local high school, so he is the primary carer of their daughter. 

“I have learnt to cook good, nutritious food for my child.  It also tastes good,” Erdenebat says. “At the training we do not just listen to the trainer, but actually get to cook the meals ourselves. It makes it easier to cook at home later.” 

“It is good because my daughter will eat food that has been cooked especially for her.  It is better for her than eating what the rest of the family eats,” he adds. 

Lkhagvadorj, 33, is also the primary carer for his three children aged 10 years, six years and seven months.  He has participated in the training.  “I mostly cook for my youngest child,” says Lkhagvadorj.  “She is eating solid foods two to three times a day.  She really likes the meals I cook for her – potato stew, liver stew and thickened rice soup. She is healthy, happy and a normal weight.”

Why target fathers

A father learning to cook micronutrient enriched food for his child 
© UNICEF Mongolia/2014/Byambaragchaa Magvandorj

The UNICEF supported nutrition training began in late November 2013.  Initially the program focused on training mothers, but staff noticed that a lot of fathers were visiting the health clinic with their children. 

“We conducted a survey and found out that almost 20 percent of children we were targeting were being cared for by their fathers,” says Doctor Dr Gerelmaa, who runs the clinic.  “So we started training the fathers as well”. 

So far, five training sessions, targeting fathers have been run, reaching over 50 fathers and some grandfathers.

At the training fathers are shown how to cook food appropriate for children over six months.  They then learn to cook the food themselves and how to enrich it with extra nutrients.  Once they have mastered a dish, they explain it to the others in the training, and start learning another one.

“Nutrition for toddlers is very important,” says UNICEF Mongolia Nutrition Officer Munkhjargal Luvsanjamba. “It is important for children under two to receive a number and variety of nutritious meals every day for their physical and mental development. Training sessions like these are helping Mongolian children grow and develop to their full potential,” she says.

The program continues

The fathers after completing the training 
© UNICEF Mongolia/2014/Byambaragchaa Magvandorj

The program is such a success that the local government is providing funding for it to continue.  This is largely thanks to the fathers. They convinced local authorities to fund the project by sharing their stories and the impact it has had on their families. 

And the news of the training is spreading.  Already health center staff from Tarialan have travelled throughout Khuvgsul demonstrating the trainings and sharing the results.

“We have a plan to expand this training to parents in remote areas,” says Tarialan health center worker Erdenechimeg. 

The author

Byambaragchaa Magvandorj, Senior Programme Assistant and Knowledge Management at UNICEF Mongolia. 

1 comment:

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