Free fruit plan aiming to encourage children to healthy diet

September 23, 2018

TEHRAN – Tehran Municipality has implemented a scheme offering free fruits to children in some certain markets across the city in a bid to encourage children to healthy diet and improve their nutrition, head of fruits and vegetables organization of the Municipality has said.

“The organization is planning to become a children-friendly organization, providing them with fresh fruits free of charge in certain markets, in addition to setting up mother-child rooms in some crowded fruit markets,” Mehr quoted Abdol-Hossein Rahimi as saying on Friday.

To have a healthy community, a healthy lifestyle and diet is crucial, he said, adding that specially, children’s nutrition is of great importance due to being at growth age.

Free fruit scheme is not only aiming at changing children’s dietary habits, but rather honoring these precious creatures, who soon will be citizens of the community that must be healthy, he added. 

Emphasizing on the role of families in this manner, he noted that we have taken the initial steps to maintain and promote the health of children and society, while it must be supported and followed by the families and parents.

Expressing readiness to cooperate with schools towards training children to have healthy diet, Rahimi said that “we are waiting for all kids together with their parents to receive fresh fruits in the certain fruit and vegetable markets across the capital.”

In July, head of cancer department at the Ministry of Health, Ali Motlaq, said that in Iran, fruit and vegetable consumption rate is only 15 to 20 percent, and physical inactivity affects about 60 percent of the population.

According to WHO, approximately 16.0 million (1.0%) disability adjusted life years (DALYs, a measure of the potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability) and 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Moreover, insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14 percent of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, about 11 percent of ischemic heart disease deaths and about 9 percent of stroke deaths globally.

Also, Zahra Abdollahi an official with the Ministry of Health said that 20 percent of the students in Iran are suffering obesity, as consumption of fast food and carbonated beverages have risen which are the major causes of overweight.

Unlimited access of children to high-calorie and low-nutrient foods in their houses, kindergartens, schools and play grounds, have led children to consume more less-healthy foods, and as a result, being overweight or obese, she added.

Key role of fruits and vegetables in children’s diet

Children’s body requires healthy nutrition to grow properly, and fruits and vegetables containing a multitude of vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds that fit the nutrition criteria, strengthens the learning potential and well-being of children and contributes to decreasing the risk of today's leading health problems including obesity.

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. Globally, in 2016 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 41 million. Almost half of all overweight children under 5 lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa.

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority. 

A recently published WHO/FAO report recommends a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries.

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