Foundation helps Support Nutrition project in Guatemala

Cooking Demonstration. (1)Agroecology promoter explaining cultivation of medicinal plantsMedicinal Plants seedlingsHeight measuring.


Project 1. Community Nutrition

Child Nutrition Monitoring and Supplements

121 children under 5 years were visited at their home at least once a month by one nutrition and one agroecology promoter. They measured the height and weight of 106 children on average every month.

Children with severe chronic undernutrition was reduced from 19.81% to 16.98%.

(85.7%) of children with acute undernutrition that received supplements (Amaranth flour, and vitamins) improved their WHZ z-score. This means that 85.7% improved their nutrition score even though they did reach the threshold of normality.

Nutritional and Health Counseling for Mothers

In addition to the anthropometric measures, during the home visits nutritional promotors offered counseling to 67 mothers on average every month. The topics that were tackled in the counseling were:

1. Healthy eating plate. Promoters explained to mothers that 50% of the healthy plate should be shaped by vegetables and fruits, 25% by cereals (rice, tortilla, potatoes), and the other 25% by animal food source (poultry, eggs, cheese) or legumes (beans). They prepared some tools for explaining the plate (poster, photos) and gave the mothers examples of healthy eating plates using local and seasonally available foods.

2. Junk food. Nutrition promoters prepared and performed a theater play to explain the health impact of consumption of junk food. Also, some videos about the negative effects of this food were showed.

3. Waterborne diseases and fever. Qachuu Aloom’s nurse prepared and gave a talk about the diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. Also, she explained what a fever is, how to identify it, and natural and traditional methods to control it.

Each month the youth nutrition promoters also did cooking demonstrations using native plants from each family’s garden. The objective of these recipes was to revalorize native and wild edible plants that are available in the fields and milpas (Corn Fields), but that people don’t know are edible or how to use them. Verdolaga (purslane) and Chaya (Mayan spinach) were used to prepare different recipes: omelette with Chaya, fresh salad with purslane and beans, fruit salad with amaranth and moringa, and coffee substitute beverage using pigeon pea. These plants are drought-resistant and are very abundant during summer, even in places where it is very difficult to grow other plants because of the lack of water. Mothers were very happy with the recipes, they liked them and also some of them expressed that in the past with their grandparents they used to eat verdolaga, but they lost the tradition of eating it.

In addition to the counseling in the home visits and the cooking workshops, the nutrition and agroecology teams worked together to organize a health and nutrition fair in 6 villages. There, they talked about junk food, performed the theater play, and some recipes were demonstrated. Also, some healthy low-price products, such as amaranth flour, pigeon pea, amaranth bars, and the recipe book developed by Qachuu Aloom in 2016 were advertised and sold.

Holistic Training of youth promoters

13 youth promoters were trained in 4 different nutritional topics so they were prepared to counsel the mothers during the home visits: (1) Anthropometric assessment and Malnutrition, causes and consequences, (2) Healthy Eating Plate, Dietary Diversity, and Nutrients, (3) Nutritional properties of Qachuu Aloom’s healthy products, and (4) Revalorization of Verdolaga (purslane) and Chaya (Mayan Spinach) and health effects of consumption of junk food.

Healthy Eating Workshops in Village Schools

Finally, nutrition workshops were given to 427 students of 4 schools (Panacal, Fundacion Nueva Esperanza, Zamaneb, and Santo Domingo) by the nutritional promoters. They prepared games to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and promote the changes in behaviors. The talk was related to responsible consumption, especially about the environmental importance of consuming local and un-processed foods instead of packed and processed food, so the plastic use and garbage is reduced.

Project 2. Diet diversification through home gardens

Increase access and consumption of healthy foods

All of the mothers in the nutrition project are trained in how to start and maintain a garden. If they already had a garden, they are taught how to diversify their garden with more nutritious foods like Amaranth, Moringa, Pigeon Pea, Green beans, Mayan Spinach and others.

Community stores- healthy low cost food products

As part of this nutrition project, we have started healthy food stands that we distribute to families who run village stores out of their homes. This is to encourage the sale and consumption of healthy snacks. Qachuu Aloom makes the snacks in our office kitchen and provides them to families to re-sell. Families earn a little income from the product and village members have access to healthy snacks. The sales of Alegrias (amaranth bars) increased by 44%, probably, because we introduced new flavors of Alegrias including new ingredients: cacao, peanuts, sesame seeds and squash seed. Also, the sales of the amaranth flour increased by 28.5%, probably, because in May the nutrition promoters mainstreamed the nutritional qualities of the amaranth flour during the home visits. In addition, the sale of the recipes books empowered and motivated women to use the amaranth flour more often to cook.

Moreover, one new community store was established: Doña Gricelda Cortez Camó, who already had a convenience store, decided to start selling Qachuu Aloom’s healthy products after she became aware of the nutritional properties of our products when participating in one of the nutrition fairs we carried out.

Also, Qachuu Aloom’s marketing team carried out a survey to determine what features of the stores can be improved to increase the sales of the healthy products. One conclusion from this survey was the need of one product counter display so the presentation of the healthy products were improved and could compete with junk products from Big Companies (chips, cookies, sodas). The counter display was developed and discussed among the community stores’ owner, so the design was improved. Eleven counter displays were produced and distributed in July.

Project 3. Recovering Medicinal Plants

Utilization and Knowledge of Medicinal Plants by Mothers

In May and June we carried out a baseline questionnaire to identify the plants cultivated and used by mothers, as well as their knowledge regarding the medicinal properties of those plants

We also carried out an exchange of knowledge between QA Aloom’s staff and youth and the members of the community that know the most about medicinal plants: midwives, healer doctors, and elders. (Olga), a former scholarship student of Qachuu Aloom who is now a midwife, went to the University of New Mexico to take a summer course about Curaderismo (healing) with healers and health practitioners from the Southwest, Mexico and the Albuquerque community.

Medicinal Plant Garden at Qachuu Aloom

Also, we carried out a knowledge exchange with midwives, elders, and mothers of the communities to identify the medicinal plants that are more frequently used, preferred for treating diseases, and suited for the climate of the region. Then, the agroecology team prepared a space in the experimental center for starting the production of seedlings of medicinal plants: 2600 bags were prepared. 20 medicinal plants were selected and will be cultivated for the later distribution in the communities and the processing and selling in the community stores.

Written by nutritionist Diana, Qachuu Aloom

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