Milk and education
“Milk impacts our life in more ways than we can imagine. The kind of nutrients we consume can determine our energy for the day,” says Doctor Nasir Muhammad who is General Manager Regulatory Affairs at FrieslandCampina Engro Pakistan Limited (FCEPL). Muhammad is leading FCPEL’s recent initiative, School Milk Program, that the organization launched in December 2021 to improve dairy nutrition of school-going children of Pakistan.
Recent studies on nutrition in Pakistan have shown that both wasting and stunting remain highly prevalent in Pakistani children. Around 40% of children are stunted and 17% suffer from wasting. Simultaneously, we observe that school performance in Pakistan is also deteriorating, with low enrollment and retention rates. Students are unable to focus properly, and lessons are not grasped effectively.
“In such a dire situation, as a dairy company, it becomes crucial to take the right steps in the right direction. Taking inspiration from meal programmes in other regions, we have recently launched the School Milk Programme in collaboration with University of Education, catering to over 7500 students of 89 primary schools in Attock and Shekiupura districts of Punjab.”
Choosing milk as the nutrient for this program was an informed decision for FCEPL. As an animal-based food, it contains most of the nutrients needed for mental and physical growth. However, unfortunately, people from lower middle-class families don’t have consistent access to it. Providing milk to students, coming from different socio-economic backgrounds, at their place of learning has great potential to improve their dietary habits as well as academic performance, making them healthier, sharper, and stronger.
“While it has only been 3 months into the program, we are already receiving positive feedback from all stakeholders involved. Every morning, students look forward to drinking Olper’s milk. Simultaneously, parents and teachers are hopeful about students’ diets getting improved, appreciating FCEPL’s commitment to work for children’s nutrition.”
While milk consumption in schools has a multitude of benefits for children, it also brings boons for farmers, taking industrial growth and employment generation to a higher level. “Looking forward, we have plans to monitor and generate 6-months and 10-months reports down the line. These will be focused on anthropometric and dietary assessment, as well as students’ school performance and attendance. The learnings will be shared externally for mass awareness and will be used to coordinate with government stakeholders. Expecting positive co-relations between nutrition and school performance, we plan to expand the project into a long-term, sustainable plan-of-action for other provinces of Pakistan.”