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.
Since 1984, Feed the Hungry San Miguel has provided school meals in many of the poorest 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 in their diet. This is why we launched 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. We are committed to helping this very vulnerable population during this important growth and development period, because poor nutrition in a child’s early years can manifest itself in a myriad of health and cognitive disorders.
To address this issue, the Early Childhood Nutrition program was launched in 2019 and is currently operating in 10 communities, helping 153 mothers and 171 children. Candidates invited to participate in the program are selected based on health assessments that we conduct in the communities where we operate school kitchens. The program is designed to diagnose and monitor the children’s conditions as well as educate the mothers about proper nutrition. Many of the parents are unaware of the bad choices they are making for themselves and their children, because that’s the way they were raised.
In communities where the Early Childhood Nutrition program is operational, mothers who have enrolled in the program receive twice-monthly deliveries of food and educational workshops. The program is directed by head chef Valentin Patlan, and supported by nutritionist Liliana Granados and chef Paola del Carmen Sanabria. 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 homes to learn more about their family eating habits. 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.
Twice a week, Feed the Hungry staff visit the rural communities where they meet with the mothers and children. They deliver cereals, rice, legumes, vegetables, and fruit—foods in the four groups that a healthy, growing family needs for a balanced diet.
The mothers attend nutrition-based cooking classes so that the program is sustainable—they can follow our guidelines and menus in the home.