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Changing Childhood Nutrition One Recipe At A Time

Semilla Nueva’s Food and Nutritional Security classes are by far the most happenin’ places to be in el campo, the countryside. Every other week, women from a community gather at one member’s house to cook, laugh and catch up. During these classes women learn new recipes that incorporate the nutritious crops SN promotes; chaya, Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and pigeonpea, as well as the nutritional value of each crop. Anne Barkett did an excellent job establishing these groups in all 10 communities where Semilla Nueva works, but after a year and a half Anne has returned to the States to continue her career. Though we were sad to say goodbye to “Anita”, we are happy to welcome  the newest member of the Semilla Nueva family, Jenifer Brito.

jenifer y ladies

Anne and Jenifer with the smiling ladies of Willy Wood.

Jenifer is from Retalhuleu, Guatemala – a mid-sized city near the coast, and near many of the villages where she now works. Jenifer started working with Semilla Nueva in September and puts her degree in Communications to good use, backing it up with her previous experience as a community health worker and nutrition teacher. At each class, handfuls of women listen intently as Jenifer explains the benefits of various vitamins for our bodies, as well as which whole foods carry those vitamins. Jenifer is a great fit for her position as Food Security Coordinator. Quick to smile, attentive, and knowledgable, she quickly and easily gained the respect and trust of the women with whom she has now built deep friendships.

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Jenifer works with a group of new attendees in San Andres Giron to make Siete Camisas, 7 Shirts: QPM corn dough layered with refried pigeonpea then steamed in a banana leaf.

I asked Jenifer a few questions about her work with Semilla Nueva:

Why do you want to work with Semilla Nueva?

Jenifer: I want to work in rural areas, incorporating aspects of communication, agriculture, and nutrition. I like the idea of teaching nutrition to help kids. Proper childhood nutrition is something that is always a factor in rural Guatemala, and I wanted to help prevent child death and improve health in rural households. I get to do all those things in my work with Semilla Nueva.

What is your favorite part about working with the women’s groups?

Jenifer: I love that I get to share life with them, be a part of their family. It’s the beauty of friendship, and caring for each other.

What are some of your favorite recipes you’ve made in class?

Jenifer: Boxboles de chaya (chaya leaves wrapped around seasoned corn dough, steamed and served with tomato sauce), gandul volteado (refried pigeonpea beans), and atol de QPM (QPM corn pudding).

How do you see these classes affecting women’s’ lives?

Jenifer: Mothers are feeding their children foods that are more nutritious, more healthy, and they know why. They have learned that it’s important to have the food more natural, more healthy. These women are poor, but they’re learning that it’s easy and more favorable to prepare natural foods they can grow than it is to buy processed foods. It makes me so happy when kids run up to me and say, “I ate chaya and pigeonpea at home!”.  The kids are learning from their mothers, and they’ll practice these healthy eating habits in their lives as well when they grow strong.

We are proud of have Jenifer as another committed member of the Semilla Nueva team, and proud of the work she is doing to improve family nutrition in the communities that need it most.

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