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Cambodian children encouraged to eat nutritious foods

With funding from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, iDE rolls out global effort to improve nutritional outcomes for rural families

21X9 Cam Nutrition

"We wanted our daughters to eat soup and vegetables"

At their farm in northwestern Cambodia, Dim Bruon and her husband Din Lean, raised their children on a traditional diet of rice and fried fish.

With a modest income, the family prioritized saving over buying fruits and vegetables from the market for family meals.

But as their two daughters grew, the couple tried to follow government dietary advice, even preparing vegetables they planted themselves, such as sponge gourd, morning glory, and cauliflower.

Despite these efforts, the children preferred what they were used to eating and refused anything but staple local foods.

"We wanted our daughters to eat soup and vegetables, but they would cry rather than eat them," recalled Din.

However, the situation began to improve after the couple attended iDE-supported nutrition and hygiene training sessions, directed at farming households surrounding the city of Siem Reap. 

Led by government officials from the local health department, the training sessions also included cooking demonstrations. Subsequent visits from members of a village and commune committee ensured the family adopted improved eating habits.

"I explained to my daughters that vegetables were not only good for their overall health but also improved her skin tone and beauty,” said Din.

The proud father said the girls had even accompanied him to the cooking demonstrations and the family now enjoyed eating corn and other vegetables with their meals.

Improving nutritional outcomes in the first 1,000 days

Despite Cambodia's economic growth, socio-economic and gender inequalities persist, hampering people's access to a nutritious diet.

According to the Cambodia Demographic Health Survey 2022, 22 percent of Cambodian children under age 5 are stunted; 10 percent are wasted; and 16 percent are underweight.

But with funding from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, iDE is working to improve accessibility, availability, and utilization of nutritious foods in last mile communities in Cambodia, and across our global programming portfolio.

Under programming efforts, iDE aims to improve nutritional outcomes for children in their first 1,000 days of life.

Dana Camp Smith, iDE senior director of global nutrition, said encouraging families to consume nutritious foods had an exponential impact on communities.

“When children are adequately nourished their chances of being negatively impacted by cognitive and health impairment are greatly reduced,” she said.

Across the globe, iDE also focuses on powering sales agents trained in nutrition, selling goods and products to reduce malnutrition.

At the same time, in Cambodia and other countries, targeted behavior change campaigns, created using human-centered design techniques, are increasing demand for healthy food choices in rural communities.

Insights and lessons learned from the work in Cambodia will inform contextualized nutrition programming in other iDE country programs including those in Bangladesh, Nepal, Ghana, Mozambique and Madagascar.

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Read more: iDE was instrumental in establishing the value chain, under our Climate Smart Commercial Horticulture Cambodia (CSmart) program.