An Assessment of Nutritional Patterns in Early Childhood Centres in Zimbabwe: A Quest for Dietary Quality
- Nutritional assessment, Caregiver, Feeding patterns, Meal diversity.
The study explored the experiences of ECD centres in Masvingo district in terms of the quality of meals with regards to diversity and size of portions and WASH provisions. One school was purposively sampled. The research adopted a qualitative paradigm and used one ECD centre in Masvingo district as a case study. Data were gathered through observations, interviews and document analysis. There is a growing realisation globally that pre-schooling is critical to the future educational achievements of children. Abundant evidence is available that the first five years of life to a child are crucial to a good start in life. Even though pre-school education has been a feature of Zimbabwe‘s education system, the concept of Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) which cater for the 0-5 year olds is relatively new. From a nutritional perspective, the feeding patterns of infants and toddlers are an avenue worth unlocking. The study explored the extent to which ECD centres adhere to meal diversity, size of portions and frequency, hygiene practices and the regulatory framework governing the provision of correct quantities and quality of food for preschool children. Major research findings were that ECD centres provided meals which had nutrient inadequacy, all ECD centres did not meet expected nutritional and health standards and they all faced challenges in providing balanced meals. The research recommends the mounting of massive awareness drives for the programme as well as the investment of critical resources in the programme for the benefit of society today and tomorrow.