Malnutrition in elementary rural schools in the municipality of Paso de Ovejas, Veracruz, Mexico


María Herlinda López Armas
María del Carmen Álvarez-Ávila
Mónica de la Cruz Vargas-Mendoza
José López-Collado
Costa Islandia Bezerra-Da
Helda Morales


Natural resources, Food culture, Agro-ecopedagogy.


Objective: To assess malnutrition in elementary education students from four rural schools in the municipality of Paso de Ovejas, Veracruz, Mexico.

Methodology: The study is based on the participatory action research process (PAR), a descriptive, analytical, non-experimental, and cross-sectional methodology. The body mass index (BMI) of 617 children and teenagers was measured through an anthropometric assessment. To determine malnutrition, the 2007 World Health Organization report which measures BMI according to gender and age was taken as reference.

Results: Forty-seven percent of the students have a normal nutritional status. Among the rest of the student population, the problem of malnutrition is prevalent, with 43% being overweight or obese. Malnutrition in its three levels (mild, moderate, and severe) had an impact on 10% of the population, with girls being the most frequently affected.

Implication: The study does not present dietary surveys nor students’ medical histories. Still, anthropometry is a method validated by WHO.

Findings: Nutritional problems —such as overweight, obesity, and malnutrition— were observed in 53% of the students. Therefore, it is necessary to implement strategies that follow a participatory model and to develop a nutritional education program based on the “territorial food system”. This will foster respect for the local culture and encourage the co-design of school and/or family kitchen gardens through agro-ecopedagogy.

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