How racism harms children's health and why we cannot ignore it.

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 7 min

In the summer of 2019, the AAP (The American Academy of Pediatrics) issued its first statement on racism’s impact on child health and how to address it. In the summer of 2020, we have mass protests across our country standing up against the inhumane deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amuad Arbery and many others. COVID had already taken a spotlight to the healthcare disparities that exist in our nation. Now, a magnifying glass is over America - where racism has existed for centuries and persisted among our infrastructure and personal beliefs - we as a country are finally opening our eyes to what many of us see in our daily lives.

Our entire goal for Ahimsa is to provide safe materials and healthy food for ALL children. We have discussed our partnership with the Patachou Foundation - they provide meals for children in Indianapolis facing food insecurity. My commitment to food insecurity is born out of my own experience as a resident physician. On a routine basis, we saw children with health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes.  We had clear cut solutions - healthy eating and regular exercise. Easy Peasy. Wait - that is the solution. But what if you don’t have the TOOLS that help you get to the solution? You have no access to a grocery store because you live in a food desert. You only have fast food chains and liquor stores in your neighborhood - and the first grocery store is many miles away. There are no gyms or YMCAs in your community and if there were, you can’t afford a membership. You can’t take those “after-dinner walks” in your neighborhood because the gun violence in Chicago that children face every day is real. You don’t have internet access to do any free online dance class on youtube. So - what is a child to do? 

Things have not changed. Now, nearly a decade after completing residency, I see an amplification and acceleration of this in-built inequality as COVID has unearthed the problem many of us have seen and know too well. A single stay-at-home order reveals the overwhelming number of issues that some children face on a daily basis: lack of access to healthy food, lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to proper education, lack of access to resources if they experience abuse … lack of access to SO many things. If that doesn't show that our infrastructure itself has inherent racism in it, I don’t know what does. Oh wait. Police brutality disproportionately against black men and women, gerrymandering, discrimination within employment … The list is long. 

According to the Center for American Progress, “structural racism in federal, state, and local policymaking has produced stark and persistent inequities in [our] economic well-being”.

In the 2019 AAP Policy Statement, the problem is stated as such:

Racism is a “system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’) that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products

How Racism Harms Children's Health

Racism continues to undermine the health of our children. Dr. Sara Goza, the AAP President, yesterday said “Racism harms children’s health, starting from before they are born. A growing body of research supports this, and we cannot ignore the impact.” 

We cannot ignore it. Our children’s future will be built on these moments. Their future depends on us - adults creating and implementing the path to real solutions. I recently participated in the White Coats for Black Matters - wearing a mask and socially distancing during the march. As physicians, we can no longer read about the studies regarding the health care disparities that we all see daily in our profession ... it’s time for all of us to DO something to change policies to end the disparity. 

Ahimsa means “avoiding harm”. The harm being done to many in our nation is unfathomable. But I believe in the good in people. I believe that people WILL act to create change within themselves and advocate for change in policy. I believe in humanity. 

Why do I believe that? Because we MUST - our children are watching us, learning from us and depending on us in this moment and the many moments after the protests and riots end. A baby’s brain can notice race-based differences as early as six months and can internalize racial bias by ages two to four, according to Dr. Jacqueline Dougé, who co-authored the AAP's statement on the impact of racism on child and adolescent health. You can visit and to find out more about how to talk to your children about racial bias. We have a chance, as parents, to engage in meaningful age-appropriate conversations with our children. We can start the fight against structural racism by starting first at home.

You can visit to educate yourself on ways to act locally and nationally for real policy change. So go on ... talk, reflect, vote and advocate. Do all the things. Do it for our kids. 

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

Safe Mealtime Essentials from Ahimsa

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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