At a Glance
- This Dr. MGR Home & Secondary School for the Speech & Hearing impaired was founded in 1990 by Dr. MGR to help increase the accessibility of education and resources for the differently abled in terms of speech and hearing in India.
- The Chennai chapter was created to incorporate dietitians and nutritional assessment into the school to help increase the nutritional status of the students.
- Lessons Learnt: Integrating school gardens that incorporate both the students and the parents can have a positive impact on both the lunch menu and the nutritional status of the children at home.
The Dr.MGR Home & Higher Secondary School for the Speech & Hearing Impaired was founded in 1990 by Dr. MGR. The vision and mission of this institution is to help the rehabilitation of the differently abled learn up to higher secondary education in sciences, computer and writing skills. In addition, teachers within this institution help teach gymnastic, yoga and dance skills to help in overall personal development. This home also offers additional resources in terms of amplification devices to help with hearing and speech for job oriented practical training to allow them to feel more comfortable in society, school and careers. Through the dedication of their staff, this institution is able to provide valuable education to their students and are continuously looking for ways to help them in all aspects of life, including nutrition.
In 2005/2006, the president of the Indian Dietetic Association created the Chennai chapter which began the nutritional screening of the children within the school and received help from both the principal and the Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute to retrieve the medical information needed. The Chennai chapter consisted of both dietitians and students who would go to the school for multiple weeks retrieving diet information and giving diet education to the children and their parents. The dietitians were able to identify specific children who were malnourished and able to give them and their family further counseling on how to counteract the undernourishment. The children were assessed over a two year period and nutritional improvements were noted.
The Chennai chapter also collaborated with the school lunch program to help increase the quantity and quality of vegetables that were being offered. In order to help with the increase of vegetables , the school reached out to Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail who is the director of EcoScience Research Foundation to help utilize their large amount of land as a form of gardening. While children were in class, parents would stay and help with the development of the garden which began to grow tomatoes, papaya, and green leafy vegetables, as well as coriander and mint. Through the help of educating both the children and the parents, the garden was able to supply the school lunch menu with important vegetables needed for their nutrition.
In 2016, two posters were presented at the ICD Granada, Spain for the research work that was done in Chennai. These posters were created and presented in collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland and Central Washington University. More recently in February 2020, additional research was conducted in the same school by Dr. Ethan Bergman regarding the Nutrient analysis school lunches and anthropometric measures in a private and public school in Chennai, India.
Food for Thought
How can Dietitians-Nutritionists play a role in increasing the gardening, harvesting, and consumption of vegetables by both students and parents in the school system?
How can Dietitians-Nutritionists play a role in advocating for policies surrounding the increase of local gardens as a source of food beyond schools, such as hospitals and restaurants?
What type of social and/or environmental sustainability would be positively impacted by adapting school gardens?
Dharini Krishnan Ph.D.,R.D.