UNICEF State of the World’s Children Companion Reports Launch

Children’s and mothers’ experiences of diet and nutrition

Join us as we share our participatory research about the global challenges to mothers and children eating healthy, nutritious food.

SoWC Young people in Sudan

(photo credit for image: ©UNICEF Sudan/2019/Idreesy)

Researchers from the Young and Resilient Research Centre, Western Sydney University, and UNICEF Australia are launching two critical reports – Feeding My Child: How mothers talk about and experience nutrition' and 'Food and Me: How adolescents talk about and experience nutrition' – providing unique insight into adolescents’ and mothers’ nutrition experiences and the rapidly evolving challenges facing families.

The Young and Resilient Research Centre from Western Sydney University conducted creative and participatory workshops with over 550 new mothers and 650 adolescents in 18 countries, across six continents. This deep dive into their experiences of diet and nutrition aims to channel their insights into policy and practice internationally. It is the first ever qualitative, user-centred and comparative study of adolescent and maternal diet and nutrition at an international scale.

The reports document two critical time points in children’s growth: their first 1000 days of life, which sees mothers transition their children from breastmilk to solid foods, and adolescence, which is a period of rapid growth and development. They document how adolescents and new mothers who are raising young children think about food; when, what, how and with whom they eat; and how they think things need to change to support children’s healthy eating.

The reports reveal surprising insights into the influences on the food choices being made by new mothers and adolescents, including: food availability; quality; economics; knowledge of nutrition and food groups; social status or background; preference; culture; family and community support; government support; marketing; environment; consumption location; peer pressure; and perception of sources of expertise; among many others.

“Our findings show that it will require a concerted, whole-of-community effort to address the dietary challenges that face adolescents around the world. Solutions must address the individual, social environmental, physical environmental and macro-systemic drivers of adolescent nutrition,” said Professor Third, who led the study.

“While the challenges ahead are significant, they are not insurmountable. Adolescents and mothers themselves are deeply invested in taking an active part in creating the necessary change and have a lot to contribute to such efforts. It is critical that, as the global community grapples with these pressing challenges, adolescents are actively and meaningfully engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating new initiatives. It is by doing so that we can best guarantee that no one is left behind.”

The ‘Feeding my Child’ and ‘Food and me’ reports will be officially released by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s global Executive Director, in a global online event on November 24 from 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM AEDT.

Read the ‘Feeding my Child’ report here (PDF, 4473.35 KB), and the ‘Food and me’ report here (PDF, 4839.47 KB).