In Guatemala, A Community Embraces Better Nutrition

Posted by on January 5th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

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

This is part two of Karen’s report of her visit to 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.

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During my recent trip to Guatemala, the students participating in the World Soy Foundation’s Youth We Feed Can Lead project held a rally to promote healthy nutrition. Kindergarten through sixth-grade girls waited eagerly in front rows of the Proximos Pasos school auditorium while their mothers and younger siblings filled the back rows and the aisles. (The mothers’ presence fulfilled the plan for the WSF pilot to reach the food decision makers in the household along with the school children who consumed the foods.)

Students gave a brief musical recital on their recorders for the crowd, followed by two speakers who had driven miles to participate in the rally. Ana Lucky Portillo de Flores, nutrition consultant for Central de Alimentos, S.A., informed and delighted the audience with her presentation on balanced diets. Everyone loved the cartoon video about nutrition. She shared visuals of the “Food Bowl” that is a Central American reference guide for how to create a healthy diet. Ms. Portillo de Flores quizzed the students and adults, presenting bags of measuring cups and other cooking utensils as prizes.

To give the students of Proximos Pasos, especially the girls, a real-world example and some encouragement, the World Soy Foundation asked Damiana Astudillo, a former Congressional Hunger Center Mickey Leland Fellow, to share a video message about growing up in Ecuador and her work overseeing the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s agriculture and nutrition programs for Latin America and Africa. The audience smiled when Ms. Astudillo referenced Proximos Pasos in the video.

Next up at the microphone was Alejandro Biguria, a Guatemalan architect who works in Central America as well as the United States. Regularly nominated for awards for his work to reduce malnutrition, Mr. Biguria’s architecture firm recently designed “Thousand Days Casitas.” Once constructed, these casitas will be havens where women can come for vitally important nutrition information. During his presentation, Mr. Biguria quizzed the audience about the importance of good nutrition in the first thousand days of life. To the delight of the speaker and the crowd, a mother holding a baby stood up and explained how her nutrition choices meant better health and development for her child.

The Youth We Feed Can Lead project increased nutritional literacy among the students and helped their school and community discover nutritional needs as well as paths forward to improve diets and health. Importantly, the participating youth have new visions for themselves holding future jobs in health and nutrition. Mothers of Proximos Pasos schoolgirls also shared a new vision for their daughters! It is common in their community for girls to only go to school through third or fourth grade. As a result of the project, the mothers say they now want to send their daughters to high school.

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Five teams of youth film crews filmed the program at Proximos Pasos. In preparation for the event, they received training from noted Guatemalan documentary filmmaker Edgar Sajcabun so they would be ready to make their own videos featuring the speakers and community interviews that the school had helped them research. The kids gained a new lens on better nutrition and their own leadership potential. View all five of the Guatemalan kids’ videos (with English subtitles) as well as my son Will’s video about the pilot at


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