Six dietetics students from the undergraduate program at Missouri State spent their spring break in the beautiful Central American country of El Salvador with their host, Convoy of Hope. Their mission was to learn about malnutrition in the small country and what is being done about it and who is helping. Convoy of Hope has worked in El Salvador for 10 years working to improve the nutritional status of children and families. Students saw firsthand Convoy’s efforts in the private and public schools with their feeding programs and also got a chance to help take anthropometric measurements – in this case, height and weight – which are used to help determine and track students nutritional status and serve the students their meal or snack.
Traveling throughout the western region of El Salvador, students also visited CENTA – which is the Salvadoran version of our USDA and Extension Offices – where they saw agricultural professionals and food technologists working to improve crops and help farmers and families grow and preserve foods. The World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Ministry of Education are working together to provide local purchase programs for schools, in addition to school gardens where not only do the students get some of their food, but also learn from the gardens. One innovative teacher uses the garden to teach basic geometry, plus have some fun in the sun and garden. We visited several schools and saw a variety of elements of their sustainable schools model.
We also saw Convoy’s work with “Empowered Girls and Women”, and “Mother’s Clubs” where they work with girls and women to learn job skills and advance their education. Small loans are even provided to open their own businesses. We were able to see some of the business opportunities, too. As this was our ninth trip to El Salvador, favorites are always the “Pounds of Love” program, which is similar to our WIC, and the visit to Love Links, a home for malnourished infants. What a great trip we had! We look forward to next year!