In the small rural communities in the San Miguel municipality there are no daycare centers. This is primarily because the mothers do not have “outside” employment: they stay at home to care for their children, although some do participate in cottage industry activities. After around eight months of age, the children are fed essentially the same diet as the rest of the family.
For 35 years, Feed the Hungry San Miguel has provided a much-needed service for many of the poorest rural communities in San Miguel de Allende. Over that time, we have observed that many of the children enter school already undernourished—and to some extent underdeveloped—because of impoverished conditions in the home and nutritional deficiencies related to a lack of vitamins and minerals. This is why Feed The Hungry San Miguel has now embarked upon a new initiative to provide sustenance for children who have been weaned but are not yet in school; typically, eight months old to four or five years old. This is a very important growth and development period, and poor nutrition in a child’s early years will manifest itself in a myriad of health and cognitive disorders. We are committed to helping this very vulnerable population during their critical formative years.
Based on our knowledge of the conditions at each of our 36 school kitchens, we selected two rural communities in the municipality as locations where we would pilot the program. Through interviews, we were able to determine the willingness of the mothers to bring the young children for a nutritious meal.
On February 11, 2019 we launched the program in the most disadvantaged community that we serve, Plan Juarez. It is an indigenous Chichimeca village 90 minutes driving time from our warehouse. On the first day, 9 mothers and their 16 children, ages 1 to 4, walked a mile or more to the school, where both mothers and children enthusiastically enjoyed a hot, healthy meal. It is so fulfilling knowing that we are fueling the children’s bodies and brains during these critical formative years. After more than 2 months of operation, the number of mothers and children have tended to vary day-to-day depending on various circumstances, but the average has stayed between 15 to 18 children.
As Feed the Hungry can only provide meals on school days, the mothers were also asked to attend nutrition-based cooking classes so that the program is sustainable—they can follow our guidelines and menus in the home as well.
A second community, La Campana, was successfully started on April 29, with 7 mothers and 10 children.
During the results review at the end of school year in July 2019, we found that even though the number of mothers and children in these first two communities varied day to day due to the duties of the mothers, their participation increased overall, and the initiative was enthusiastically accepted.
Therefore, and based on our budgetary constraints, we have decided to open two more communities at the beginning of the school year in 2019, and hopefully two more by 2020.