Central American Youngsters Hit the Books on Good Nutrition

Bolstering students' health with nutrition education and wholesome foods
Jul 5, 2017 8:35 AM ET

by Michelle Cruz 

Rita Reyes used to see her students fill up on junk food and soda. Now it’s fruit, juice, healthy proteins and garden vegetables.

“This was a constant battle not only with the kids, but also with the parents,” said the primary school teacher at the San Apostol School in Ticuanpante, a municipality just outside the capitol of Nicaragua. “Today, things are different.”

The transformation – 75 percent of junk food has been swapped out for healthier alternatives – was part of a sweeping Cargill campaign in Central America focused on children’s nutrition and education. Headlined “Back to School with Cargill” and working under the Corporate Social Responsibility program “Nourishing the Future,” the campaign helped more than 23,000 preschool and elementary school student at 73 schools in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

With the support of partners like CARE, Fabretto and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as Cargill businesses in Honduras and Nicaragua, schools, students and parents received a bevy of resources aimed at bolstering students’ health.

That included training on nutrition, garden vegetables to pair with school meals, infrastructure support, and access to protein, like donated chicken. The goal: Instill good nutrition habits to support strong academic performance.

More than 1,300 Cargill volunteers packaged and prepared kits of resources – notebooks, pencils and crayons, books, literature on nutrition – to send to schools. Teachers got training and education on nutrition and food security.

In one school in Nicaragua, the campaign rebuilt bathrooms and the kitchen, repaired the water system – and planted a garden to grow vegetables “so that the kids can have access to fresh vegetables for their meals,” said Maria Nelly Rivas, CSR regional director.

The campaign also brought nutritionists into schools to measure students’ height and weight and give tips on a healthy diet.

“For CARE, it´s a great privilege to be able to work with companies that are socially responsible like Cargill,” said Adolfo Pacheco, regional director for the Nourishing the Future program. “’Nourishing the Future’ provides for us a window to give children access to better nutrition and a better academic performance.”