The Youth We Feed Can Lead (World Soy Foundation)

Posted by on December 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments »

By Karen Edwards, Advisor, World Soy Foundation (WSF)

This is the first of two blogs describing how the World Soy Foundation’s “The Youth We Feed Can Lead” nutrition initiative is transforming the lives of students in Guatemala.

A recent trip to Guatemala with my 14-year-old son, Will, prompted some soul searching. This was my third visit to Guatemala and once again, I found myself asking, ”What would I do if I were raising my own beloved children in this Central American country that is home to the fourth highest rate of malnutrition in the world?” “What if I didn’t have enough food for my still-growing son?” “What if gangs came to our home and gave us no choice but for Will to join them?” Many Guatemalan families are facing challenges like these, but during my visit, we saw firsthand how small interventions can have a significant impact on the lives of people who are struggling.

Soy Drink Add to Math Comprehension

My son and I visited a school participating in the World Soy Foundation’s The Youth We Feed Can Lead project, run by Mission Impact, a Guatemalan-based NGO. The goal of the project is to help improve the nutrition of the students and their families, while also giving students the skills to make better nutritional choices for themselves and to be agents of change in their communities.

In English, proximos pasos means “next steps”. The 120-girl Proximos Pasos School in Santa Maria de Jesus presented a literal “next step” opportunity to improve nutrition of the students and increase food literacy in the community. Many families in this farming community rise at 4:30 a.m. to tend their fields of maize, peas and other produce. The girls often do not eat breakfast before school. If they do eat, the meal might be coffee and a tortilla that offers carbohydrates but little protein. Teachers describe having to repeat math instructions in the early morning classes as the girls struggle with comprehension.

Photo: Karen Edwards, Advisor, World Soy Foundation (WSF)

A student at Proximos Pasos School in Santa Maria de Jesus uses the soy processing machine that provides nutritious food for her fellow students. Photo: Karen Edwards

Mission Impact and Rotarians installed a soy processing machine at the school that allowed the school and local women to produce soy beverages, soy smoothies, breads and more to help fill the protein gap in the girls’ diets. School Director Mirna Pirez reports that she and the teachers see firsthand how soy nutrition contributes to learning. The school’s SoyCow processing machine offers fresh soy-based beverages. Teachers report comprehension is greatly improved after the girls receive their daily drink. The same lessons that required repeated instruction prior to the drink suddenly become simple after soy.

A nutritious breakfast, based on soy drinks, help the students of Proximos Pasos School pay attention in class and improve their performance in critical areas, such as mathematics.  Photo: Karen Edwards

A nutritious breakfast, based on soy drinks, help the students of Proximos Pasos School pay attention in class and improve their performance in critical areas, such as mathematics. Photo: Karen Edwards

Turning Words into Actions

Just one month ago, government leaders from around the globe met in Rome for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2). Government delegations dedicated themselves to reducing all forms of malnutrition and established frameworks to accomplish their goals. The private sector and civil society affirmed their commitment to partner with governments to turn words into actions. The Youth We Feed Can Lead project is an excellent of how cooperation between governments, the private sector, and civil society can nourish bodies, minds, and hope for the future.

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