Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Sandy leads a training at Tzanchaj Primary School
Sandy leads a training at Tzanchaj Primary School

“No matter how well we eat, no matter how much healthy food we cook, if we don’t practice good hygiene in the kitchen we can still get sick from what we eat.” Sandy Mendoza is Pueblo a Pueblo’s nutrition educator, and she recently wrapped up this year’s grand tour: fifteen trainings in five schools over the course of three months. She led trainings for 161 mothers and children, who cooked eight different recipes over the course of the summer. The theme of the last set of trainings was kitchen hygiene, a topic Sandy finds both vitally important and also overlooked within nutrition education.

One of those trainings took place at Tzanchaj Primary School, which sits a short distance from the center of Santiago Atitlán, with a group of mothers whose children attend the school. After unloading bags bursting with fresh produce and other ingredients, Sandy began the training with a short presentation about kitchen hygiene. She showed them images representing what not to do while preparing food and suggested what they should do instead. Rather than sneezing into your hands, she explained, it’s better to sneeze into your elbow so that you don’t spread germs when you use your hands to cook. She recommended that the women tie back their hair well so that it cannot fall into the food, and that they remove jewelry from their hands and wrists before cooking. She also pointed out that tasting spoons should not be placed back into the pot to stir food; rather, it is safer to place a bit of food into one’s hand in order to taste it, or wash the spoon first.

Above all, Sandy says, she wants to encourage training participants to be more organized in the kitchen—to wash dishes right away rather than letting them pile up, to keep surfaces clean, and to avoid putting dirty utensils into the food they prepare. “Most of us do some of these things at home,” she says, referring to the bad habits she tries to correct among participants. “But then we say, ‘That food made me sick.’ We have to think of why that might be, and choose to practice good hygiene instead!”

On the menu during the August trainings was pasta with chicken, broccoli, and garlic and a lentil salad with chopped spinach. “Kids will say they don’t like garlic, they might say it makes them sick,” Sandy told the women, “but once they taste it and get used to it, they’ll love it.” The women chatted as they cleaned and chopped vegetables and mixed the dishes together. Once the food was done, they each filled up containers of pasta and salad to take home to their families for dinner.

Sandy’s grand 2018 tour may have come to a close, but she’ll be back—she will soon begin planning for next year’s trainings, including designing brand new menus which will introduce participants to brand new ingredients. In the meantime, chicken-broccoli pasta may very well be on the menu in the homes of Tzanchaj Primary School's students...

Mothers look on during Sandy's introduction
Mothers look on during Sandy's introduction
Participants chat as they prepare vegetables
Participants chat as they prepare vegetables

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Filling in the "olla familiar"
Filling in the "olla familiar"

Pueblo a Pueblo nutrition educator Sandy Mendoza has been hard at work, and so have her students. Sandy teaches cooking classes in five different schools each year. Each class consists of fourth, fifth, or sixth graders...and their moms!

Sandy explains, “The nutrition training program grew out of something we noticed in our school garden program a few years ago: there were many vegetables that no one harvested!” After asking around, Sandy realized that families did not know how to prepare these vegetables. Sandy’s cooking classes are designed to introduce students and their mothers to new vegetables - why they are important to a balanced diet and how to cook them. “What I do is show my students how to incorporate new ingredients into recipes they’re already familiar with,” she explains. “There are lots of easy ways to get kids to eat new vegetables!”

Each of Sandy’s classes begins with a nutrition lesson. Sandy starts by asking her students to fill in a diagram of the “olla familiar” - the Guatemalan equivalent of the food pyramid - to reflect the way they eat at home. “It serves as a sort of diagnostic exercise,” she notes. “Many times it is clear that mothers aren’t aware of how large a role vegetables should play in their family’s diet.”

Sandy then introduced the ingredient of the day: in this case, spinach!  At each of the five schools, Sandy showed participants to make stuffed spinach fritters. The participants stuffed theirs with cheese, but this is a dish they can also fill with shredded meat or any other vegetables when they recreate it at home - the possibilities are endless! The class also made a lentil-based salad full of chopped veggies and “Hawaiian-style” pasta (a pasta salad with ham and pineapple). While plenty of participants had their doubts about this last flavor combination, the whole meal was a hit.

Sandy is always happy to see returning participants give new students tips. “They say, ‘I learned this last year - let me help you,’” she explains. To Sandy, this is a sign that her classes are having an impact. Her students leave with knowledge that lasts, inspired to bring what they’ve learned home to their own kitchens. Thank you for supporting Sandy and Pueblo a Pueblo as we empower two generations of home chefs to cook healthier food for healthier families!

Lending a hand at a school in Chacaya
Lending a hand at a school in Chacaya
All smiles at a school in Nueva Vida
All smiles at a school in Nueva Vida
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The school garden at Nueva Vida Primary School is growing vertically.  upwards. The children have incorporated a small vertical garden to experiment with. The garden is made up of wood and plastic tubes. Though a very simple design, it has been large enough to grow peppermint, purslane and other small herbs. The children and teachers are excited with the results--and it will be so simple to replicate at home!

Classes began last month, and the children at Nueva Vida Primary School have already hit the ground running. Each grade is responsible for the maintenance of a garden section, and each grade has done their share of weeding, tilling and getting ready to begin planting seeds for the new school year.

The children and teachers have also started experimenting with vermaculture. Their worm box is thriving, and the children love  learning about composting and the role that the little critters play in turning kitchen scraps into healthy soil. It’s the dry season in Guatemala, which means a lot of watering responsibility for the children.  But, from the looks of it, they don’t mind sprinkling and are really enjoying their time outside the classroom.

Nueva Vida Primary School’s commitment to the school garden is evident, it typically produces the most harvest from all of our Organic School Garden (OSG) Project schools. Last year, they harvested 1,277 pounds of vegetables!  

We’re excited to see how much they harvest this year! Our Organic School Garden Projects not only give the children and teachers an excuse to spend time outside the classroom and get their hands in the dirt, but they also provide them with the tools and knowledge to grow their own food and learn about how to nourish themselves.  These are skills they can share with their families. This is particularly important in a country where 47% of the children under the age of five are malnourished. t

Thank YOU for joining our mission to fight malnutrition in rural Guatemala. Your Global Giving support enables us to work alongside teachers and their students to create healthier schools and healthier children. Thank You!

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Students and their moms wait patiently in the school kitchen at Nueva Providencia Primary School for Sandy Mendoza, our Organic School Garden Educator, to teach them how to cook a nutritious chicken and chard meal.

Before they begin cooking, Sandy explains each ingredient they will use and its  nutritional benefits. The ingredient list includes some household staples, like carrots and onions, and some leafy greens that few to none have used before-- chard. After explaining the cooking process and assigning each mother and daughter a cooking task, everyone  washes their hands and the produce and the cooking begins.

Mother and daughter cooking classes are very intentional. Young girls in rural Guatemala are expected to share in the responsibility of caring for their siblings and helping their mothers cook while the men and boys work in the fields. With this kind of responsibility, it is important that families eat high-nutrient meals.

Most of the families in the Nueva Providencia Community work exclusively picking and tending to coffee production. Coffee production isn’t very lucrative for the people who work at the growing and picking stages. As a result, sufficient economic resources is the biggest challenge for most families in rural Guatemala, and with it comes the public health issue of child malnutrition. Statistics from the World Food Programme claim that 50% of children in Guatemala under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, the highest percentage is among indigenous communities--  including the ones we work in.

This is the reason why it’s so important to teach healthy habits at a young age and to encourage healthy cooking.  The recipes we share with the moms and daughters are affordable and based on ingredients that can be found at the local market or in the school garden.

Workshops like this are possible only because of your GlobalGiving generosity. Thank you for helping us cultivate healthy habits and for joining our mission to create healthy students.

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Sandy teaching the children about zucchini
Sandy teaching the children about zucchini

Students from La Cumbre Primary School gathered in the small school kitchen to listen to Sandy Mendoza, our Organic School Gardens Educator, talk about what they would be learning to cook that day. “How many of you have cooked zucchini before?” she asked the children. None of them raised their hand, and one asked if she was actually holding a cucumber.

“Zucchinis have vitamin A, vitamin B, and protein” Sandy explained. “Today we’re going to make a chicken and zucchini soup, it’s easy to make so you can make it at home” she added.

 Sandy went through each ingredient they would be using that day, asking the children to identify them and telling them about the benefits of eating healthy. All of the ingredients can be found growing in the organic school garden!

 At Pueblo a Pueblo, we know that cooking is a skill that empowers children to take an active role in improving their nutrition. These cooking workshops serve as an opportunity to work directly with our beneficiaries and promote kitchen hygiene-- tying back their long hair, washing their hands, washing utensils they’ll use, washing produce and how  to avoid the spread of germs and disease. They also learned about fire safety near the stove and safe knife handling.

 We’re always impressed by the kids’ willingness to participate in these workshops and are confident that teaching children new ways to use vegetables will inspire them to be little chefs. Your support makes it possible for us to encourage our beneficiaries to make healthy choices and fight malnutrition. Thank You!

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Ana Cabrera
Project Leader:
Ana Cabrera
Neenah, WI United States

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