Eat Kheta, Be Seta: Bhutan’s Healthy Diet Initiative to nourish the nation

Eat Kheta, Be Seta: Bhutan’s Healthy Diet Initiative to nourish the nation

In a concerted effort to foster healthy eating habits among Bhutan’s youth, the “Eat Kheta, Be Seta” (Eat Smart, Be Smart) campaign is making significant strides. This initiative, launched in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), aims to promote nutritious diets and instill food safety awareness in schools across the country.

At the forefront of this movement are 15 pilot schools located in Thimphu and Chhukha districts. Teachers, who received comprehensive training in July, have become torchbearers of the campaign, disseminating essential messages about healthy diets to their fellow educators, students, and parents.

WFP and the Health and Wellbeing Division of MoESD joined forces to equip 29 school cooks, including two women and 27 men, along with 23 mess in-charges, one district education officer, and one school principal from 24 selected schools in the Samdrup Jongkhar District. These dedicated participants underwent extensive training, covering fundamental aspects of nutrition, food safety, hygiene, and sanitation. The curriculum also included the preparation of wholesome and nutritious school meals, effective food store management, and the necessary bookkeeping and reporting protocols for the National School Feeding and Nutrition Programme.

Thanks to funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), WFP and MoESD successfully constructed state-of-the-art kitchens and storage facilities in 15 schools nationwide. These new facilities not only enhance food preparation and storage capabilities but also promote health and hygiene practices among kitchen staff.

Building upon these positive outcomes, WFP and MoESD are now working to establish minimum standards for school kitchens and stores, which will apply to all educational institutions across Bhutan.

Furthermore, in the month of August, 30 trained focal point teachers from the pilot schools in Thimphu and Chhukha organized a series of events and activities using “Eat Kheta, Be Seta” materials and guidance. These teachers offered training sessions to school staff on how to effectively utilize social behavior change materials. Notably, some teachers conducted nutrition training sessions during parent-teacher meetings and school events. These sessions featured interactive games such as “Emo-Demos” and “Snacks and Ladder,” designed to convey key nutritional messages in an engaging manner.

Simultaneously, WFP, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DoA) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL), organized a workshop for the development of a large innovation grant proposal under the Adaptation Fund. This workshop, held on August 8, 2023, brought together 18 participants, including six women and 12 men, representing various organizations, such as the Tarayana Foundation, Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW), College of Natural Resources (CNR), Agriculture Logistics and Marketing Cooperatives, National Soil Services Centre, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, National Seed Centre, and Agriculture Research and Development Centres (ARDC).

The workshop aimed to identify secondary innovations that would complement the primary innovation of climate risk insurance for smallholder farmers. Input from DoA, ARDC, and CNR played a pivotal role in shaping these innovations, according to WFP.

In line with the overarching goal of updating stakeholders on project progress and future implementation plans, WFP convened a taskforce meeting to discuss the Adaptation Fund large innovation grant proposal. Attended by 12 participants, including five women and seven men, this meeting included representatives from DoA, the Department of Macro-fiscal and Development Finance, RENEW, Tarayana Foundation, Bhutan Insurance Limited, and Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited.

Bhutan’s “Eat Kheta, Be Seta” initiative, backed by these collaborative efforts, is well on its way to promoting a healthier and more sustainable future for the nation. As it continues to flourish, the campaign holds the promise of transforming dietary habits and nurturing the well-being of Bhutanese citizens for generations to come.

Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu