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An IPHD health assessment revealed that a high number of Bhikamkor residents suffer from malnutrition and a disease called iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia means that community members do not consume enough iron-rich foods and, as a result, their bodies do not get the oxygen they need. This can result in constant fatigue, a weak immune system and slow mental and physical development in children.

Iron is found in foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, lentils, beans and leafy green vegetables. Most Hindu families are vegetarian and thus cannot rely on meat for their iron intake. Families in Bhikamkor mostly live in poverty and cannot afford iron-rich vegetables. Iron-deficiency anemia was especially pronounced in Bhikamkor’s women, who usually eat the remains of an already scarce family dinner.

To combat malnutrition and iron-deficiency anemia, an IPHD intern started the Community Kitchen Garden in 2016. The project provides seeds and space in the backyard of the Saheli Community Center to grow a vegetable garden. Five Bhikamkor women helped plot the 5 by 4-meter garden, which they continue to maintain and harvest as it grows fruits and vegetables including spinach, tomatoes and chili.