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The Fresh Start Wellness café rolls out NAC camps nationwide in India

Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu), [India], May 3, 2024: In a landmark initiative to address the alarming rates of malnutrition among Indian school children, Social entrepreneur Renjith George led The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe (TFSWC) has launched a unique drive nationwide, a  Nutritional Assessment Checkup (NAC) camp which has started from  Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost tip of India. 

The initiative is part of the “Nourish Their Future”  project implementation drive. It aims to assess the malnutrition levels among schoolchildren and take proactive measures to eradicate this hidden epidemic plaguing the nation. The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe, founded to promote holistic wellness and healthy living through millet-based food products, has been at the forefront of pioneering initiatives to combat malnutrition in India since 2021. 

NAC Camps: A Crucial First Step in Combating Malnutrition

As part of the ongoing mission against malnutrition, The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe (TFSWC), who launched the award-winning project “Nourish Their Future” in February 2024 to provide school children with Millet-based foods, have initiated a series of Nutritional Assessment Checkup (NAC) Camps in schools nationwide. The national launch of the NAC camps and the pilot run of the camps were held at St. Jude Hitech School and the Rojavanam International School, both from Kanyakumari district in Tamilnadu, on 12th and 13th April 2024, respectively. A team of qualified dieticians and paediatricians led by Dr Saranya, Chief Dietician from NIMS Medicity Hospital, Trivandrum, were part of the NAC camps. They conducted an assessment of the children for various malnutritional defects. The findings of the camps show an alarming rate of 90% malnutrition level among the children assessed. 

In the coming academic year, a nationwide series of NAC camps will be carried out in various schools across India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. The primary purpose of the Nutritional Assessment Checkup(NAC) camps is to identify children with different nutritional deficiencies and provide parents with awareness of the crucial role of nutrition in enhancing children’s overall well-being, including their academic and non-academic performances. 

Commenting on the initiative, Dr Susan Itty, President of IAPEN, Kerala chapter, said, “It’s not just about feeling hungry or eating enough; it’s about getting the right nutrients to grow strong and smart. We must work together to ensure all kids get the right foods packed with minerals and vitamins to stay healthy and succeed in school and life. Malnutrition can affect them even as adults, impacting their future  opportunities.” 

India’s Malnutrition Challenge

According to the latest UNICEF report, India has the highest number of children with severe acute malnutrition in the world. Global Nutrition’s shocking statistics reveal that 1 in 3 children in the country suffers from this condition, with Vitamin A deficiency affecting 1 in 5 children under 5; 1 in 10 children are prediabetic due to the unhealthy food practices prevailing in the country. Malnutrition impacts physical health and hinders children’s cognitive development, limiting their potential in curricular and extracurricular activities.

Country’s First-of-Its-Kind Approach:

The “Nourish Their Future” project, the malnutrition eradication initiative from The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe, was recently recognised with the prestigious “Pride Bharat Award 2024” for its unique approach. The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe, known for its expertise in wellness foods, particularly those based on millets, is leveraging its knowledge through “Nourish Their Future,” which is aligned with the National Educational Policy—2020 policy of the Ministry of Education, Govt of India. 

The project focuses on two key aspects: First, identifying nutritional gaps in children through Nutritional Assessment Checkup (NAC) Camps and through the online NAC platform, which is planned for launch within the next few months, which would ensure accessibility even for remote schools in India to be a part of the project. Second, is the distribution of nutrient-enriched food based on millet and other veggies to the children to combat nutritional deficiencies. Millets, the wonder grain, are rich in fibre and essential nutrients and include critical vitamins and minerals, helping to create a healthier generation. This pan-India initiative aims to tackle malnutrition in school children across the country, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. It is a comprehensive initiative combining nutritional assessment with targeted nutrient food distribution, and it is a first-of-its-kind effort in India.

A Social Entrepreneur’s Journey:

Renjith George, the man behind this widely acclaimed movement, is a techie-turned-wellness foodpreneur and no stranger to making a difference. His social entrepreneurship journey began in 2000 in Bangalore, where he was a computer engineering student with the establishment of the Y2KTots Foundation (www.y2ktots.org), which is dedicated to supporting disadvantaged children. 

In 2020, Renjith launched India’s first box-packed wellness diet products through his startup, Foodflavours, demonstrating his commitment to social impact and innovation. Recognising the alarming malnutrition rates in India, he established The Fresh Start Wellness Cafe in 2021, focusing on incorporating a wide range of wholesome, millet-based food products. Since 2022, through the y2ktots foundation, Renjith has been supplying nutrient-rich foods to underprivileged children at various orphanages, destitute homes and government schools through a project called “Good Food Thrive.” 

His continuous dedication to social good led to the creation of two impactful campaigns for schools nationwide. The “Eat Right School” initiative aligns with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) mission and seeks to create awareness about balanced nutrition, food safety, and hygiene. The “Nourish Their Future”  project, inspired by the Ministry of Education’s directive in the NEP 2020 policy, focuses on incorporating millet-based foods into schools. 

Nourish Their Future: Sowing the Seeds of Well-being in Schools

By focusing on providing millet-based foods in schools, this initiative addresses the immediate nutritional deficiencies while laying the groundwork for the long-term health and well-being of India’s future citizens. Given that malnutrition poses a significant obstacle to educational attainment and overall development, the significance of the “Nourish Their Future” project cannot be overstated. This endeavour aligns with global endeavours to combat malnutrition and highlights stakeholders’ dedication to prioritising the health and welfare of our nation’s children. By ensuring that every child has access to nutritious food, this initiative goes beyond merely nourishing their bodies; it also nurtures their potential, empowering them to thrive and contribute positively to society. The “Nourish Their Future” project is not solely about providing nutritious food; it’s an investment in the future aimed at building a healthier, more prosperous India for generations to come.

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