Imagine living in Bangladesh and eating little more than a bowl of rice or two each day. Rice has been part of your diet since you were a child, and you feed it to your children because it’s filling, inexpensive and accessible. Aside from small helpings of vegetables or legumes or the occasional piece of chicken, rice is your primary food source.
Rice has calories, but it has minimal additional nutritional value. A diversified diet that includes nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables (and, preferably, animal source foods such as chicken and eggs) is necessary to prevent sight- and life-threatening deficiencies, including vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness, leaving approximately 350,000 children blind every year. Young children with vitamin A deficiency also have impaired immune systems; a condition which increases the risk of death from certain common childhood infections and claims the lives of 670,000 children each year who live in less developed countries.