Fighting Child Poverty, One Hard-Boiled Egg at a Time

School children’s nutritional status improved, as seen in changes in their height, weight, and body mass in less-developed villages in China, NYU study finds.

An egg a day helps keep malnutrition away, according to New York University Silver School of Social Work professor Minchao Jin and a co-researcher after they analyzed the consequences of a not-for-profit initiative in China that gives a hardboiled egg to children at school each day.

A clinical associate professor, Jin and coinvestigator Jun-Hong Chen conclded that in less-developed Chinese villages, children’s nutritional status improved in light of the initiative, as seen in changes in their height, weight, and body mass.

 “One egg per school day for two semesters (about 220 school days per year) leads to significant improvements in height and weight,” the coauthors wrote in their study published in the journal Nutrition and discussed in an Oct. 17 article in China Philanthropist. While participation in the nonprofit One Egg Program was voluntary, the children who enlisted in it were required to consume the free hard-boiled egg as soon as they received it.

The researchers analyzed the impact of the program, drawing from a sample of physical data on 252 school-age children who started receiving the protein boost at school in spring, 2017. Jin and Chen, a Silver alumnus pursuing his Ph.D. in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, compared the results concerning these young participants with the growth and development of 94 other children, who did not receive the nutritional supplement from their school.

As the authors noted, undernutrition during childhood is hardly confined to less-developed areas of China. One randomized control trial demonstrated that one egg per day for infants 6 to 9 months old in rural areas of Ecuador reduced stunting and underweight prevalence, while egg supplementation to a vitamin and mineral fortification program in Indonesia for children under 5 improved their growth.

In poor Chinese villages, an increase in egg-yolk intake for infants 4-to-9 months of age led to better growth at age 1 and less likelihood of anemia, another study cited by Jin and Chen found.

Launched in 2010 through the Shanghai United Foundation, the One Egg Program focused on the nutritional health of older, school age children rather than infants and toddlers, who are more commonly the subjects of food aid to address poverty in many countries around the world.

“Children in rural areas are often more at risk than those living in developed urban areas,” Jin and Chen wrote, citing their own work as well as other research findings. “Undernutrition during early childhood negatively affects brain and motor development. These effects can cascade through poor education outcomes and economic hardships during adulthood. Therefore, improving nutrition in less-developed regions of China is an essential practical goal.”   

According to their study of the One Egg Program, China “is shifting from medical care to health promotion, and improving population. Nutrition is one of the main foci.”

And while rapid economic growth in China has improved childhood nutrition, they added, “Economic growth also can increase the cost of producing food, leading to increases in food prices. This can disproportionately affect food security and may, in some cases, increase the number of children with low socioeconomic status. Thus, it is essential to provide affordable and accessible foods, particularly in poor areas.

Full article can be read here