Boost Children’s Immunity with Food
About Give A Meal 2.0 – Mobile Nutrition Clinic
COVID-19 has badly affected Hong Kong's economy, but families living in poverty are bearing the brunt of its effects. During the severe waves, many workers from low-income households either lost their jobs or were furloughed. They could only cut costs by limiting the food and clothing they buy, but this adversely affects the health and development of their children.
Over the past two years, Oxfam Hong Kong has been implementing Give A Meal – Oxfam’s Food Support Project for Low-Income Families. Within two years, 700 households with children who lived in subdivided flats, as well as elderly people who lived alone received meal kits that met their nutritional needs for six months.
Our partner People Service Centre and the Hong Kong Community Dietitian Association conducted a survey in mid-2021. According to the survey:
Since 2021, Oxfam has been working with the People Service Centre and the Hong Kong Community Dietitian Association to implement the Mobile Nutrition Clinic Project. The project combines research, service and education to teach parents and children from low-income households correct information about nutrition. Through it, children also learn to understand that it is not easy for Mum/Dad to make a delicious meal given the many tasks they have to tend to.
After a year, parents have learnt how to prepare healthy meals for their children and have regained confidence in taking care of their children's meals. Over 70 per cent of the children saw significant improvements in their nutritional intake, and more than half of the children saw improvements in their digestive health and picky eating habits.
Through research, we learn about the problems children from low-income families face in terms of nutrition and provide actionable plans to help them develop healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of disease.
Enables a Nutrition Ambassador to receive training to assist dietitians in reaching out to other parents from low-income households whose children have poor eating habits
Provides a 3-to-6-year-old child from a low-income family with a one-on-one assessment by a dietitian and a personalised plan to improve their nutrition
Enables 16 parents and 16 children to learn about and manage their eating habits with the help of a dietitian and social worker
What Project Participants Are Saying
'my son and I have gained a better understanding of nutrition and have discovered food that is both nutritious and affordable.'
--- Cherry, project participant
‘With the help and encouragement from the nutritionist, my son and I have gained a better understanding of nutrition and have discovered food that is both nutritious and affordable. My son's belly has not only shrunk, but our relationship has also improved.’ - Cherry, project participant
As a mother, Cherry has always put her children first and would rather spend less on her needs than let her children eat less than enough. She understands how hard it would be to make up for lost nutrition if her 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter did not eat well, and how it could affect all aspects of their development. However, money is tight and the cost of food accounts for half of her income. Cherry has limited options when it comes to food, especially affordable and nutritious food. As a result, her son gradually developed picky eating habits and gained weight drastically during the pandemic. Cherry said, ‘There was no use trying to persuade him. My son would just say he doesn't like the food or won't eat it.’
It was not until about six months ago when Cherry and her son joined the Mobile Nutrition Clinic Project that her son gradually adopted a balanced diet. Cherry appreciates the kindness and positivity of the nutritionist, who encouraged and helped her son eat healthily during the one-on-one consultations. ‘When my son made progress, she would praise him; if he didn't reach a goal they had set, she wouldn't scold him but would encourage him instead.’ Cherry said her son saw major improvements in his diet, and in the past six months, his belly had shrunk and he had become slimmer.
What Cherry was most happy about is that after joining the project, her children not only followed the instructions of the nutritionist, but also appreciated her efforts in asking them to eat a balanced diet. After joining the Children's Healthy Eating and Self-Care Group that is part of the project, the siblings have learnt not only learnt about nutrition, but also the hardships their mother experience taking care of the family.
Cherry will never forget the time when she overcooked some noodles, and her son asked tactfully, ‘There's something different about the noodles today. Did you buy a different brand, Mum?’ In the past, he would have refused to eat and it would have turned into an argument. After she admitted her mistake though, her daughter rushed to reassure her, ‘No Mum, it's delicious!’ Cherry was delighted that even though the food did not taste good, her children were willing to eat it and appreciated her effort. She told us, ‘Your relationship with your children is the foundation of everything. If you have a good relationship with them, your kids will eat anything you cook; but if you don't, they will not eat a single bite.’ To her, learning more about healthy eating and strengthening her bond with her children have been the greatest gifts she’s received through the project.
Listen to a story to learn more about the challenges low-income families face.
‘Rethink Poverty’ Audio Stories: Commercial Radio DJ Amber Au has always been passionate about social issues. In this audio story, she helps listeners learn more about a father who is trying to help his young son – a picky eater – improve his health. What helps in the end may surprise you.
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