25 October 2012

Plan International and Nutrition: Helping to Scale?

Founded 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world.

Plan International's website says: "We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. In 2011, Plan reached 56,500,000 children in 58,053 communities. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations." 

This is a phenomenal outreach and, in a context where the world is working hard to scale up nutrition action, having a such a well regarded and far reaching organisation such as Plan up its ambition on nutrition is a major plus. 

Yesterday I was invited to be on a panel that was addressing Plan's country and national Directors.

My argument was (a) if you don't focus on nutrition status, you are ignoring the very foundation of child development--all your other programmes and effort will not realise their potential, (b) a focus on the first 1000 days after conception helps break the intergenerational cycle of hunger and child deprivation and helps make sure that any resilience work is pro-poor, (c) focus more on the most marginal areas, the fragile contexts and the urban contexts--this is increasingly where the malnourished children are, and (d) become fragile development experts--the wider development community needs organisations who can bridge the disasters-development space.

I also saw presentations from Peter Walker of Tufts University and Steve Collins of Valid International. 

Peter presented some interesting stuff on (a) how we are hardwired for diet diversity and how supermarkets and food processing plays on this to generate the consumption of the wrong types of foods, even in poorer environments.  (As a side note, it was fascinating to hear that the first supermarket, Piggly Wiggly in the US, secured a patent in 1917 for its new supermarkets in terms of store plan layouts that forced customers to pass through all the aisles to get to the checkouts.) and (b) how concentrated the decision making is in food systems--for one country (I did not catch which) Peter said that for 3.2 million farmers, there were 160,000 suppliers, 8600 manufacturers, 600 chains, 110 buying desks, 170,000 outlets and 170 million customers--that is a lot of concentration of power in those 110 buyer desks.

Steve gave a nice summary of community managed acute malnutrition and was urging the nutrition community to find ways of working with the private sector to incentivise them to be more concerned with healthy and affordable foods.  One idea he proposed was to have SUN social branding if companies meet certain standards.  Nice idea, but who has the capacity to enforce? 

I was impressed with the quality of reflections and questions from the leaders in the audience and I wish Plan well as it (hopefully) enters the nutrition field in a strong way.


Muhammad Amir said...

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Derrick Patterson said...

It's good to hear that there are existing organizations who are putting efforts in creating a good diet and meal plans for us, especially for the children. I just wish they still continue to help promote good nutrition to all of us.

Mack Stark said...

Social branding huh? I wonder how they can apply that to their future projects as a non-profit group.

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Kayleigh Richardson said...

I may have to agree with you, Derrick; actually ‘m impressed with these types of organizations for putting up nutrition plans for children. I just hope they can get support and sponsorship from the government so that more children will grow up healthy.

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