School Breakfasts Begin in Puerto Firmeza

On Monday October 14th the distribution of the school breakfasts to the students of the native community Puerto Firmeza began. This activity is part of the second phase of the “Grow and Cook” workshops, where, once the mothers have learned healthy cooking techniques and the fundamentals of nutrition, they are being trained to organize weekly breakfast menus for the students.

This step of now providing a school breakfast to the children at the intercultural school is an important phase of our developing work there.

It links together:

• the production of food from the project in the school grounds, headed by a Shipibo permaculture expert employed by Alianza Arkana, in which the children at the school are involved, thereby learning about sustainable food growing methods;
• the cooking and nutrition classes organized by Mariana Orta, the nutritionist employed by Alianza Arkana;
• concern expressed by the Director of the school that many children were not eating breakfast before the start of the school day and therefore , through hunger, could not attend well to their classes;
empowerment of the women in the community by involving them in the organization and implementation of an important and successful project in which they can see direct benefits for them and their children.

After nearly three years of supporting this school, which we plan to be a model for other schools in the area, it is very gratifying to see the culmination of this work in the provision of school breakfasts.


shipibo mothers preparing breakfast

Mothers preparing breakfastMothers are very happy with the project and their initiative in organizing activities is remarkable. They make the decisions about which dishes will be prepared and decide the weekly rotation of preparing food in the kitchen; the nutritionist oversees the project and gives support when the women have doubts.

As the school is starting to produce some food, the menus have to be adapted to the availability of seasonal crops. This way, the school contributes to part of the breakfast served, according to seasonally available produce, and Alianza Arkana complements with the rest of the ingredients that are needed. As time goes on we plan for this project to be self sufficient i.e. that all the children’s meals will come from food produced on the school grounds.

As food production is only just beginning, we have started with the provision of one nutritious breakfast per week. Our long term goal is to provide 3 breakfasts per week for each of the 100 children at the school.

Sadly, Mariana Orta, our nutritionist is returning to her native Mexico at the beginning of November to begin her post-graduate studies after one year working with us. She will be greatly missed by all Alianza Arkana staff and the mothers at Puerto Firmeza with whom she has built warm and friendly relationships. She will be replaced by, Corina Calsino Lope, a nutritionist from Peru, who is already working with Mariana and learning from her in the time before she leaves.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mariana for the valuable work she has done, which has shown us the importance of nutrition in our projects. Her work has, further, helped us to establish what kind of food crops we should be promoting in our permaculture projects to ensure that the people we work with have a healthy diet – something which is at risk with the increasing penetration of poor Western diets (primarily ‘fast food’) into Shipibo communities with all the associated health problems caused by this.

Paul Roberts, Sunday, 27 October 2013