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Community Interventions for Dietary Improvement in Ghana

Marquis, Grace S., Colecraft, Esi K.
animal-based foods, caregivers, child nutrition, children, cognition, community programs, eggs, entrepreneurship, income, livestock, loans, meat, milk, nutrition education, nutrition knowledge, nutritional status, organ meats, profits and margins, t-test, Ghana
Low caregiver income and poor nutrition knowledge and skills are important barriers to achieving optimal child feeding in rural Ghana. An integrated microcredit and nutrition education intervention was implemented to address these barriers. Using a quasi-experimental design, 134 caregivers of children 2 to 5 years of age in six intervention communities were enrolled into self-selected savings and loan groups. They received small individual loans over four 16-week cycles to support their income-generating activities. Nutrition and entrepreneurial education was provided during weekly loan repayment meetings. Another 261 caregivers in six comparison communities did not receive the intervention. Data on household sociodemographic and economic characteristics, perception of income-generating activity profits, and children's consumption of animal-source foods in the previous week were collected at baseline and at four additional time points. Differences according to group (intervention vs. control) and time (baseline vs. endline) were analyzed with chi-square and Student's t-tests. The intervention and comparison groups did not differ by caregivers' age and formal education; few (35) had previous experience with microcredit loans. At endline, more intervention than comparison caregivers perceived that their business profits had increased (59% vs. 23%, p < .001). In contrast to comparison children, after 16 months of intervention children consumed more livestock meat (p = .001), organ meat (p = .04), eggs (p = .001), and milk and milk products (p < .0001) in the previous week in comparison with baseline. Integrated food-centered strategies can improve children's diets, which will enhance their nutritional status, health, and cognitive outcomes.