Friday, February 21, 2014

Does a teenage girl know more than parents in the rural developing world about good nutrition?


Recently we had a mother comment on the wording of our website that indicated that her daughter would be teaching parents how to feed their children properly. This was my response to her.

"Thank you for your interest in our program. Your daughter is in for a life enhancing adventure and a lot of fun. 

Thank you for your comments about the wording on our website. We appreciate feedback on what we have posted so that we can clearly communicate what we do. While what is stated is technically correct, it can give the impression that we are being paternalistic. The focus of our program is to empower these poor rural farmers to have good nutrition and food security for their families.

In a very real sense your daughter does know more about good nutrition than these parents do. There is no question as to how much these parents love their children and that they do all that they can to provide for them. Our hope is that your daughter will start to realize just what a wonderful life she has and understand how much she has been taught by her parents, teachers, and leaders. At the same time we will help teach her how to share her knowledge and the additional training we give her with our program families in a way that is empowering and not condescending.
Maize (corn) is the main crop of many developing countries and the main source of food.

Most of these farmers only grow and consume corn. They have not been taught about the nutritional needs of the body and what foods have these essential nutrients. Many of them do not have access to seeds other than corn. They are not knowingly depriving their children of good nutrition. They are just following the traditions of their fathers. Because they live in very rural areas they have not had access to nutritional education either through schools or through other media. 

They will supplement their diets with wild vegetables or fruits and even occasionally travel to markets to purchase other food: beans, other grains, vegetables, and fruits. Our nutritional analysis shows that in Peru 80% of the children that we studied were underweight due to poor diets. 

Our program teaches them the importance of proper nutrition, provides seeds for them, and helps them to plant their own gardens. We teach them which vegetables and grains provide the nutrients that they need and how to eat them. We teach them how to prepare the food they grow to provide good nutrition for their families. It is very basic and very simple, but life changing for these wonderful people.

We encourage them to then pay it forward to their friends and neighbors. Our focus is on self reliance so we want them to not only learn what we teach, but feel empowered to learn and do more. We are thrilled to see our graduates try new crops, techniques, or markets. It shows that they have learned to stretch out of their comfort zone. We hope that they succeed, but we help them see that if they feel they can learn from it and do better the next time.

I would be glad to answer any other questions that you may have.
Lonny

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