We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the Early Childhood Nutrition program, made possible by the generosity of the Benediktson family of Canada.
While Feed the Hungry’s traditional focus has been providing nutrition to school-aged children, the Early Childhood Nutrition program was launched in 2019 to address the needs of children under the age of four, before they entered school. Countless studies have shown that malnutrition during this critical stage of a child’s development and growth can lead to a myriad of lifelong health and cognitive disorders.
In addition to providing food to both the mothers and their children, the program is set up to diagnose and monitor the children’s conditions as well as educate the mothers about proper nutrition through informational workshops.
Prior to the pandemic, the Early Childhood Nutrition program was fully active in 4 of the 36 communities served by Feed the Hungry. During the pandemic, the program continued in those communities, but the workshops were temporarily suspended due to social distancing concerns and a shift of organizational resources to the Feed the Families emergency response effort. With the support of the Aldama Foundation, as well as private donors such as the Benediktson family, FTH is happy to report that workshops resumed earlier this year, and the nutrition program will be expanded to reach a total of 10 communities.
The Early Childhood Nutrition program is directed by our head chef, Valentin Patlan. Two San Miguel College graduates, nutritionist Liliana Granados and chef Paola del Carmen Sanabria, were recruited last month to help implement the planned expansion into new communities. The team is responsible for gathering initial data from a specific community where moms and babies have been identified and previously interviewed. The nutritionist weighs and measures each child, delivers a diagnosis, and in the case of malnutrition, the team schedules personalized visits to their homes to learn more about their family eating habits.
“What we’ve learned during these home visits is that, yes, the lack of money to buy food is evident, but even with a little money, these parents lack the basic knowledge of what good nutrition is all about. Most of them are unaware of the bad choices they are making for themselves and their children, because that’s the way they were raised,” commented Liliana.
Guided by the nutritionists and their diagnoses, the chefs design menus that the families are able to prepare within their means. Depending on the severity of their nutrition deficiencies, the families will be given six to twelve months to work with the nutritionists and chefs and produce results that move the children out of malnutrition and into a healthy, normal range based on their age, weight, and measurements
“We hope to be able to reach as many as 10 communities and help improve the health of at least 150 mothers and 200 toddlers,” said Maestra Olivia Muñiz, Director of Operations for Feed the Hungry.
The program expanded to La Palmilla, Pantoja, and Montecillo de Nieto this spring, and three more communities will be receiving the benefits of the program this year: Clavellinas, Nuevo Pantoja Kinder, and the Emiliano Zapata school in Ejido de Tirado.