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Recipes for success improve nutrition in Vietnam

Judges taste meals at the contest to determine the 30 best recipes.
Judges taste meals at the contest to determine the 30 best recipes.

Mobilizing local knowledge and local resources to improve children’s nutrition, By Dao Truong Son, Health Specialist, Plan Vietnam

Research has shown that one in every three children in Phu Tho province of Vietnam suffers from malnutrition. Unable to afford pork, beef, shrimp and fish, most families subsist on meals of boiled rice and vegetables.

To help improve children’s nutrition, Plan is working together with community leaders, members of the Women’s Union, health staff, village health workers, preschool teachers and parents to develop nutritious recipes for children using only local produce grown in gardens, ponds, fields or rivers.

Recipes for success

In the beginning, a cooking event was organized in each village to select the six best recipes that are easy and quick to prepare while also being nutritious for the children. The district and Plan Vietnam nutrition experts provided feedback on how to improve the recipes.

After several weeks of practicing these recipes, approximately 60 parents demonstrated their homemade recipes in front of commune leaders, health workers, preschool teachers, and children. Eventually 30 recipes were selected and recommended as nutritious meals for children.

Mrs. Dao Thi Thu, a 55 year old farmer in Minh Phu commune, won the runner-up prize for the special fish-soup made from small dry fish.

Every day, Thu has to cook for her two grandchildren while their parents travel long distances for work. Thu is unable to afford money to buy fish, shrimp, pork or beef for her grandchildren, thus their diet consists mainly of boiled rice and vegetables. Thu is highly appreciative of this opportunity as she is now able to cook delicious and nutritious food for her grandchildren.

“All 30 dishes today were very delicious and cheap. In the beginning, we didn’t think that we could cook delicious and nutritious meals from these tiny shrimps, small fish and crabs. I can easily collect these shrimps and fish from my ponds and the field. It was very interesting learning to cook a variety of dishes that my local people demonstrated today. I will also guide my neighbors to cook nutritious foods like me so that our children will grow up healthy and strong”.

To make the cooking and nutrition lessons more widely available, the 30 winning recipes are being printed in a booklet and several of the top recipe menus will be filmed. These materials will then be distributed to all families, care givers and preschool teachers. 

Learn more about Plan's work in Vietnam.