Go, Grow, Glow

Sept. 27, 2018

In my role, as a Community Agribusiness Peace Corps Volunteer, I focus on child nutrition as a critical piece of my work at an orphanage in Western Uganda. At my site, we are fortunate to be surrounded by lush gardens and a variety of rich vegetation. However, ensuring that fresh produce makes it from the garden to the plate, for well-balanced meals for the students, was a point of learning for myself and the staff.

The orphanage was founded by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) named Laura, who shared, early on in our time together, that she faced a challenge in getting adequate amounts of greens to be included in the children’s meals. I decided to investigate and utilize Billy, the organization’s social worker, as my go-to interpreter to get to the root of the problem.

In our initial approach, we went to speak directly to the staff of the kitchen, who quickly pointed to the staff of the garden as the culprits. After some time, we approached the staff of the garden to hear their perspective on the situation and found them pointing to the staff of the kitchen. In the middle of both groups, many of the staff stated that the children simply don’t like greens and refuse to eat them. I soon realized that I needed to change the way that I was looking at situation and approach it from the perspective of benefits.

The Go, Grow, Glow model uses technical immersion with both visual and hands-on instruction to help the participants learn about nutrition benefits in food. After hearing from all parties, Billy and I decided this was the perfect approach to provide a holistic training on nutrition for staff and students. In the first training session with staff, we asked, “Looking at this chart and all the different kinds of healthy foods, are our children getting these foods during their day?” Unanimously, each participant shook their head from side-to-side and said, “No.” When I reiterated the importance of including greens in the sauce, there was a little pushback. In a session for the students, we took a moment to mentor about the long-term benefits of eating nutritious meals while still young and that these eating habits would carry into adulthood. We also worked with both kitchen and garden staff to devise a plan for shared responsibility. In this plan, the agricultural manager will ensure to harvest a set amount greens every day and have cooks verify proportion sizes to maximize the amount of greens in each meal. We are happy to report that the end result for the kids is a balanced diet and renewed team effort from all staff rich in nutrients.