Monday, May 16, 2011

The Fruits of Our Labour!

Today was phenomenal! We had a super jam-packed day but it was so incredibly awesome. The nutrition team went to Ruuju Primary School this morning to complete a feedback questionnaire regarding the school lunch program recommendations that we made last year. Last year, during the three months we spent in Kenya, we did an evaluation of the school lunch programs using a program called World Food. We analyzed the recipes for uji (maize porridge) and githeri (bean and maize stew) based on a third of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for macro and micronutrients. Based on the results of the analysis for each individual school, we made individualized recommendations for each school and we met with each school to go over our recommendations. Once we discussed all of our recommendations, we developed realistic goals that each school felt that they could achieve. Each school committed to making one or two alterations to their recipes that would enhance the nutritional value of the meals served. Ruuju Primary School was a bit of an exception to the schools we analyzed. Their school garden happens to run by the Ruuju Women’s Group, which means that the garden contains a greater diversity of crops and the crops are much more successful. As such, the only two goals they made last year was to add more flour to the same amount of flour when making porridge, and soaking the beans and maize over night and then cooking them in fresh water the next day to make the githeri.

During our feedback session, we learned that not only are both of those goals being implemented, but they were also adding a fortified oil to the uji! They actually went back to the list of recommendations we made, and went beyond the goals they made to make further improvements to their recipes. Tuck and I were actually bouncing off the walls with excitement because today was the first day that we actually got to check up on our work from last summer, and we learned that people actually listened to us and learned from us. What we taught them last year is being implemented and is positively contributing to the nutritional status of the 500-600 students that attend the school.

To make the school feeding programs work, each parent has to donate a specific number of kgs of beans and maize. We learned today that when parents come to the school to drop off beans and maize, they notice that the school cooks are soaking the beans and maize, or are preparing meals slightly differently then they are used to and they ask the cook about the differences. The cooks have been explaining to the parents the changes and the reasons behind these changes to the parents since last year. As such, our nutrition messages have been shared with the members of the community and have extended far beyond the schools and women’s groups who we taught directly.

We also sat down with the “Champs” from the women’s groups to do an evaluation of the “Champ” model that we developed last year to work with the women’s groups. The new students this year are going to be using this same model with the nursery school parents this summer. The champs all loved the experience of being chosen as experts and the opportunity to speak to their own peers about the nutritionally improved recipes that they prepared. They also loved that they all got to prepare meals together and became really good friends through the experience. They also mentioned that they were so impressed that we actually helped them serve the food and ate the Kenyan food with them. They felt appreciated and proud to have been chosen. Such positive feedback was unreal!

Like every visit to the schools, we got to run around and play with kids for a big part of the day, which is always my favorite thing to do. We also walked to a couple of different farms to see grain cradles and thriving crops.

When we visited farms in the Muchui area on Saturday, we saw first hand the impact the draught has had on the crops and the livelihood of the women. This is the second harvest in a row that has been impacted by draught. In fact, most people don’t even have a harvest at all this season because of the severe draughts. Ruuju in contrast, actually has a maize harvest this year, and the farms were lush and green instead of brown and dry. It will be interesting to see how the schools in the Muchui area have fared with the goals we made with them last year given that their crops have suffered so dramatically.

We’ll be going out to schools in the Muchui area on Wednesday and Thursday so our fingers are crossed that we get feedback as positive as todays later this week.

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