Eating Habits and the Peace Corps Experience

By Shelby Schulman
Sept. 28, 2017
It is rice and sauce day in and day out. People warned me of what was in store before arrival but it is truly incomprehensible until you start eating leftover rice for breakfast everyday for two years.
It's rice and source everyday
A typical guinean meal - rice and sauce everyday

Trying new recipes

It seems like an easy fix - introduce nutrient rich additives to the already existing meal. There was no messing with these women and their sauces.

Until the days that a community member and I did some "test" recipes. Really, it all started with me making a simple suggestion, that turned into me getting laughed at, that turned into me doing an experiment with a friend.

We cut up some carrots and plopped them into a commonly prepared peanut sauce. We sprinkled moringa leaves into a cassava leave sauce. We squeezed fresh oranges and dolloped honey into a rice porridge. We threw in local summer squash to a red palm oil based sauce. All of these additives are nutrient rich foods that can be found throughout our small community - and some even came from our groupement's garden.

We #endhunger by challenging the norms of meal preparation to diversify and "nutrify."

Traditional food cooking method in Guinea
Women are the key to food security
Previously unused land made productive

Changing perceptions through active involvement

Seasons here are as follows: driest of all dry with heat that I have never experienced and perpetual rain in the form of drizzles, face pinching whips, or torrential downpours. Upon arrival at site, I was informed that there is little to no gardening done during the dry season. People simply feel that there is not a way to give the soil and plants the water that they need to sustain any sort of productivity.

With a groupement of 37 hardworking women, we proved that thought wrong.

We fenced in a garden space. During the rainy season this land is impassible; however, during the dry season it makes for a perfect bas fond garden (swamp garden). The soil is nutrient rich, there are multiple water outlets, and it is close to the village.

We started planting. The immediate and obvious solution was to plant the same things that they always plant. Together, we decided to introduce new crops - lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. We discussed the importance of diversification of diet and the facilitation of that through gardening.

We #endhunger by promoting nutrition rich food production where it previously did not exist.

The superfood- Moringa

Promoting Moringa - the superfood

Moringa. It is quite the hip superfood. I am pretty sure it costs a lot of money to add a tablespoon of moringa powder to a smoothie at Whole Foods so it's definitely really good for you. Moringa also contains 7 times the Vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the Vitamin A of carrots, 4 times the Calcium of milk, 3 times the Potassium of bananas and 2 times the Protein of yogurt. I promote moringa in every possible capacity in my community.

In a community where nutrition is  important and where moringa trees are everywhere to be found, it was a happy connection indeed.

After teaming up with the health post that serves my community, we have started a big moringa push. We planted an incredible amount of moringa trees at the health post. We discuss the importance of moringa and promote its accessibility. Our next step is to start a program with all new mothers to distribute moringa powder and sensitize them on the overall topic more formally.

We #endhunger by planting, promoting and programming around superfoods.

Shelby at her site