picture courtesy UNICEF

What Is The Colour Of Your Food Today? Reckitt Benckiser Spreads Nutrition Message Through Innovative Plates

The innovative colour-coded plates are helping spread awareness about nutrition among women in the Maharashtra districts of Amravati and Nandurbar, in a big push to the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan.

Ranjana Narayan | Jun 12, 2019

What is the colour of the food on your plate today? Does it have all the colours -- of white, for milk and milk products, or green, for vegetables, orange, for carrots and tomatoes, or does it always have the brown colour of chappatis? This innovative colour-coded plate is helping spread awareness about nutrition among women in two Maharashtra districts, in a big push to the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan.

Leading health and hygiene company, Reckitt and Benckiser, which has joined hands with the Maharashtra government to bring about change in the acute malnutrition status of Amravati and Nandurbar districts, is using these plates as part of its Human Centric Design to bring about behaviour change among the people.

The plates are part of a Nutrition Kit, devised by Reckitt Benckiser, which has other such innovative and interactive game-play kind of messages aimed to spread the message of health and hygiene among the people.

“With these plates we have reached out to 3,000 women – pregnant women, lactating mothers, and women planning pregnancy -- in Amravati and Nandurbar. We plan to reach out to 1,75,000 such women,” Ravi Bhatnagar, Director – External Affairs and Partnerships, Health, Reckitt Benckiser, told Outlook in a chat.

“There are five colours in the plate –white, brown, orange, green, violet; We told the mothers let us map out what kind of food you eat daily. We saw green is missing, orange is missing, white is missing and only browns are there. Brown is basically chappattis, of wheat, jowar or bajra. We told them ‘you need to have various colours in your plate daily, so that you get the vitamins, minerals, iron, and everything that you need daily for your calorie intake.”

The women were mapped for a week, and during the time the colour “always remained brown”, he said.

When their children (0-2 years) were mapped, the colour white – representing milk was seen, besides brown. When asked if the mothers fed chappatis to such small children, they said they would soak the chappatis in a little water or milk, mash it into a paste and feed the babies.

“Through these colour-coded plates we are trying to show how the people are lacking in essential vitamins and nutrition. All the food is locally available and locally grown, like the vegetables -- torai, tinda, spinach, beetroot, onions, and the milk, eggs. They have fruit bearing trees, kitchen gardens. Food is there, but they only need to be told about the right kind of food,” he said.

“We told them they need to have more colour in their plate, so that they eat better and nutritious food, and as a result stay healthy and fit,” Bhatnagar added..

The Nutrition Kit, designed by Butterfly Fields, a firm founded by IIT-IIM-Ahmedabad graduates for Reckitt Benckiser, is an important Behaviour Change Communication tool.

And how was the response of the women?

“The response was super. The women were very excited, as they were fully involved. They were asked to bring small samples of food from their own kitchens to fill the plate,” he said.

Besides informing the women about the importance of greens, milk, fruits in their daily diet, the colour-coded plates also helped them get over the superstition that milk is bad for women who have just given birth.

“The women would heed the traditional healer who told them that for six months after delivery they must stop taking whites (milk and milk products). This is a silly belief, since if they do not consume anything white for six months after delivery how will the mother be fully nourished in order to look after the baby,” he said.

pic courtesy Unicef

With sanitation being an important part of Nutrition, the kit contains a Glitter Game for handwashing. In this, some glitter is put on the hands of the children and they are asked to shake hands with others – to show how germs are spread. The children are then asked to first wash hands with plain water, in which some of the glitter washes off, but most of it sticks. This shows how plain water does not help to wash off the germs. Then they wash with soap, and the glitter is completely gone. “This is an effective way to tell them about the benefits of handwashing with soap,” says Bhatnagar.

Another game is like a kaleidoscope, that can be used with a mobile torch, to project on a large screen different messages – on the benefits of breast milk, steps to be taken during diarrhea, on the food pyramid, steps to be taken during delivery, during pregnancy, preventive undernutrition.

Another is a card game, called Nutrition Mania, much like the Pokemon Cards, to spread the message about nutrition among children in an interactive, interesting way.

Reckitt Benckiser has also created seven videos, on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – the crucial period from conception to two years of age when proper nutrition is most important for growth and cognitive development. The videos, in Marathi, are done in a dialogue format, using a mother and child from the community. The videos are shown during the mothers’ meeting on the Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), and when they come for immunization of their children.

picture courtesy Unicef

As part of its programme in 1,000 villages of Amravati and Nandurbar, Reckitt Benckiser aims to reduce stunting by 40 per cent and wasting by 95 percent over five years.