In my first 6 months at site, I took my time going around to each compound and visiting every family. I didn’t do this with any other objective but to get to know people, especially the mothers. Boly is small enough of a village that it was easy to go around and spend an afternoon with someone new. I found a good conversation builder was around food – asking about different Senegalese dishes, talking about ingredients, how to prepare, preferences etc. From there I found it was easier to veer more towards serious talk about food groups, nutrition, and how it related to the health of their children. I asked out of curiosity – to understand how they view and value those things, and how they saw the three being related. Most people know what food is defined as, and would tell me how food “has a lot of vitamins,” “is important for living,” and “gives you strength.”
But what I wasn’t hearing was
- How foods help develop of specific parts of the body (fruits and vegetables for eyes, skin, hair; meats and dairy for muscles; grains, oils and sugars for energy and weight gain)
- What nutrients or the foods that contain them are needed to make a completely nutritious meal
- What kind of supplementary foods they could make that contains essential nutrients and who it can help
Severe and acute malnutrition is not rampant among the Under 5 demographic, but any mother here will tell you their kids are too small and skinny. They know “it’s not healthy” and this worries them. As a preventative health volunteer with basic tools and local language, I have the opportunity to broadcast new information and activities, to those willing and wanting to learn about what the food in their dishes does for the development of their children.
Goal 1: Introduce new food concepts to target groups
Goal 2: Introduce and pilot a new way to measure the nutritional status of children Under 5 (baby weighings)
Goal 3: Use an enriched flour (Cereamine) to encourage Goal 1 & 2.
Goal 4: Increase the ability of trained village health volunteers (relais) to lead and reinforce goals 1, 2 and 3