On Monday April 29th, Feed the Hungry SMA headed out to La Campana, a community of about 900 residents, to kick off FTH’s Pre-Kinder meals program, officially known as the Early Childhood Nutrition Program. The purpose: to provide sustenance for small children aged between 1 and 3 years old, and to encourage breastfeeding among the mothers of babies younger than 1 year old. To ensure optimum nutrition for their babies, these mothers also receive a nutritious meal themselves.
FTH’s staff, board of directors, and special guests joined in the visit to congratulate the cooks, Mrs. Angelina Vértiz and Mrs. Eulalia Olalde. The cooks and kitchen volunteers will be responsible for serving over 240 meals a day, including those for the mothers and toddlers. Earlier in the year, a group of eight mothers was identified and selected to receive a daily meal. Six out of the eight mothers showed up with their babies and toddlers. One of the mothers, Eugenia Vértiz, was the first one to arrive and get her meal, comprised of specially prepared rice and lentils. With her 7 month old in her arms, her smile and words of gratitude resonated throughout. Her two daughters are in elementary school and already receive the school meals FTH has been serving in this community since 2005.
“Everyone is welcome for seconds or third servings, the idea is that no one should leave hungry,” said Al Kocourek, President of Feed The hungry.
Lucina Maldonado, 3rd grade elementary school teacher, said she really encourages the moms to truly take advantage and benefit from this program. “The program expansion is a wonderful idea as the effects of malnutrition are irreversible and irreparable in children younger than 3 years old. Including the mothers who are nursing is an even bigger blessing!” She is originally from a rural community and appreciates how programs such as this one truly help break the cycle of malnutrition and bad eating habits.
Valentín Patlán, Feed The Hungry’s Head Chef, has prepared menus that change every other week for the mothers and toddlers. His challenge is to incorporate familiar foods and regional flavors into the menus, while keeping them from becoming boring. There are many ways to prepare rice, lentils, garbanzos and beans. He teaches the cooks how to be creative and, most importantly, how to modify the flavors by using spices instead of fat. The Pre-K Early Childhood Program is at its fledgling stage: La Campana is just the second community, after Plan Juarez, to be incorporated. FTH hopes to continue to develop the program further and expand its reach to more school kitchens, something that will only happen if more Kitchen Angels, Founders, and donors contribute to the cause.
Text: Paola Juárez. Photos: Al Kocourek.