Notre Dame graduate students researched causes of childhood malnutrition in Kiribati and presented the research, as well as possible solutions, to LDS Charities representatives in May 2017.
The student team found that a lack of understanding of nutrition and health, an absence of balanced meals, and poor soil conditions for growing crops are some of the main contributing factors to childhood malnutrition in this island nation.
To combat the lack of knowledge, the Notre Dame students recommended that LDS Charities adapt current programs and create classes to help families understand why healthy living is important. For example, these classes can teach how to incorporate more vegetables into everyday dishes. Rice and fish are abundant in Kiribati and are easier to get and use than fresh vegetables and other produce, so many people do not know how to achieve a balanced diet.
Another barrier to healthy nutrition is lack of access. Getting fresh produce from the market takes many people over two hours, round-trip, and poor soil prevents many families from growing their own produce. There are several established organizations in Kiribati, such as the Taiwan Technical Mission, that LDS Charities can partner with (as they have with similar organizations in other countries) to teach locals about fertilizers that can increase crop yields. The Taiwan Technical Mission has a local presence in the country and teaches composting techniques, gardening practices, and vegetable-cooking classes for home use of garden products.
Notre Dame students also recommended that LDS Charities begin a healthy lunch pilot program at Moroni High School to provide children with greater access to nutritious and balanced meals. If the pilot program is successful, it could then expand to other schools on the islands. The Notre Dame team also suggested creating campaigns about why healthy living is important and inviting students and schools to contribute their own ideas to support the campaign.
Notre Dame and LDS Charities will continue to collaborate on this project and similar projects in the future. Together these organizations will implement solutions and analyze the effectiveness of their work in various countries around the world.