Feed your child! With what?

I guess the TV ads promoting child nutrition are a part of this. Initially, I thought that this was a rather good initiative. Then someone sitting beside me remarked “Who are these ads aimed at? The poor barely get enough to eat.”

That got me curious. Let me spell it out –

  1. The ads are to promote proper nutrition in children. Most middle class or upper class children are covered on this front, their parents have the money necessary to feed their children properly. (A relatively minor portion of the population.)
  2. Most of the children suffering from undernourishment or malnourishment are from the economically poorer classes. Their parents do not have the means to ensure they are fed properly. (A majority of the population.)

The ads, even the campaign itself, are designed to encourage and promote good nutrition for children; that means protein and vitamins. Vitamins are not entirely out of reach, proteins are the stumbling block. Common sources: meat, fish, milk, eggs. Secondary ones are the vegetable proteins: lentils, beans, a few others. Estimates vary but vegetable protein is about (best case) 10 times LESS effective compared to an equal mass of meat proteins (eggs and milk are included), you also need a large variety to get the complete set of meat proteins that a growing human needs. Prices of the sources of meat proteins are already stratospheric in Bangladesh, vegetables are climbing fast. So if you want to ensure your child receives proper nutrition, get ready for a sizeable outlay.

The aim of the program seems to be to improve child nutrition, with the target demographic being those of the lower economic classes, where proper child nutrition is a problem. The choice of media to carry the message is the biggest problem though. Before anyone starts chewing me out saying a large number of the poor have access to this form of media, the television, let me chew out anyone about to say that by pointing out the minute people will see that the target being presented to them is hard to achieve, interest in the contents of the message, no matter how good it is, will plummet.

Therefore the most likely outcome of this is that those who are already best positioned to reap the benefits of such a program will be benefitted. They were already well-positioned to do so anyway. Now they are getting access to more information that the middle and higher classes can make better, even proper, use of. Seems like this effort, as well-intentioned as it may be, just might serve to exacerbate inequality between the haves and have-nots. Unless, those who dreamt of this concept have hold of some information that are not known to the public, which is a travesty of the democratic process, or something that was whispered in a low voice amongst the cacophony of the “bigger events”. Take for example the media chosen, the TV. Direct access to a TV is had by some of the poorest people even, never mind those more well-off. However, what is the primary purpose of watching TV? Many people will claim it is a means for entertainment, a way to know the world and its going-ons and go on and on, most of it pure, unadulterated, utter nonsense.

To answer how such a move can be disastrous, consider the behaviour of the people of the respective classes. The poor sit in front of the TV after a day of physical exertion, sometimes hard physical exertion, the middle and upper class end the day after going through similar mental work. Which set of people are more ready to be receptive to the overt message of “feed your child properly”? The ones who are the targets of this campaign will the message and not pay any attention the moment they realise what this campaign requires of them. Given how this society is setup and how it functions, there will be people who will make this a status issue, as a way of showing off their higher economic status. My child is better fed than yours, that is why s/he is better than yours; when the lesser well-fed child does better the idle talk will begin. As much people like to say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can’t hurt”, the emotional drainage of just words can be very high.

I may be wholly wrong here, but that would be only if the government has specific information that the middle-class is the one with the problem. In that case, the ads have a completely incorrect setting (the situations are shown in a rural or not-that-urban context). Again, making the ads irrelevant and meaningless. That means I’m not entirely off the mark here. Rising prices are a problem for most of the middle class even, that makes the observation “With what?” pretty true as well.

So the TV ads are fairly irrelevant in one of two possible ways, an economic one or a social one. There may be more, it may even be that I am calling it wrong (which will be a relief really); but given the little information available to me, it doesn’t look it’ll have a very happy ending.

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