Before our school year began I knew that we should offer lunch to our students daily. This is not something that most schools in Haiti offer, however I felt it was necessary. We are investing into their minds, we should in the same way be providing for their bodies.
Right away, we were very blessed to receive several generous donations which allowed us to kick-start our daily lunch program. We have two ladies come each day to cook and help clean, Mariannie and Islan. I have known Islan for several years. She has eight children and is very poor. Mariannie has six children. I am so glad that we are able to offer them both a steady job and source of income, a dignified way for them to provide for their families. The ladies come each morning and cook outside over a coal stovetop making rice, beans, chicken, and vegetables.
In addition to the daily lunch served at noon, I had brought a few big boxes of Cheerios with me to serve as a snack for the kids, as needed. I was amazed when after the first few days of school, the boxes were almost gone.
One of our students is a little girl who is 5 years old yet is very small and malnourished. I noticed on the first day of school that she was constantly at the snack table filling up yet another plate with Cheerios. When I would try to introduce her to a lesson or activity, she began flailing around, visibly upset and anxious. It broke my heart to realize that she was not being fed enough at home. All of her focus at school was on filling up her little body with as much food as she could. I learned that little NaNa's mother had passed away when she was a baby. She lived with her father, 15 year old sister, and the sister's newborn baby. The first week of school I refilled her heaping plate 2-3 times full of food and she still ate it all quickly and ravenously. I then sent her home with a packet of peanut butter crackers to eat on the walk home, as well as some of the extra rice left over from lunch. I prayed that as NaNa began to trust that I would always have food for her, she would be less fixated on eating and begin to engage in academics.
Before moving to Haiti, I knew that people in Haiti are malnourished and often times do not have food, and that there is much poverty, suffering, and hunger. As I began to grow acquainted with my community it became a reality for me as I learned that I have friends who can go entire days without meals. Seeing this little 5 year old girl unable to enjoy the school day because she is so hungry, so desperate for a meal, completely broke my heart. Her hunger was preventing her from learning. While I was so happy that sweet little NaNa was able to eat a full lunch meal each day, I felt it was still not enough. I couldn't expect her to come in and get started learning when she most likely hadn’t eaten since the previous day at lunch.
- Close to 2/3 of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
- One-hundred thousand children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, while one in three children is stunted, or irreversibly short for their age. (source- World Food Program).
- Less than 50% have access to safe water (I imagine this has worsened since the Hurricane).
- 87% of the rural population of Haiti do not get the minimum daily ration of food as defined by the World Health Organization.
- 30% of children are chronically malnourished. In the Haitian countryside you are 7x more likely to be malnourished than if you live in Port Au Prince.
- Malnutrition =potential for permanent adverse affects on learning and behavior.
- A large portion of food was produced in the Southwest of Haiti where the Hurricane damage was greatest, causing an impact on food availability and cost.
Almost immediately into our school year we realized we needed to expand our lunch program to include lunch AND breakfast! We now feed each child breakfast when they arrive at school, as well as a full Haitian lunch and daily multivitamin. There are many studies that show the importance of a healthy diet in children. Our prayer is that providing two nutritious meals will improve their energy, focus, and concentration. We are tracking students weight and height (which they love checking) throughout the year to see their physical growth.
Praise the Lord because as NaNa has started to be fed consistently she has been able to worry less about meeting her basic needs and instead is able to learn, laugh, and be joy-filled! If you are interested in supporting this program, please consider becoming a monthly mission partner. Giving a sustainable donation of just $25 a month will help us to continue providing meals for our students, as well as offering a salary for Mariannie and Islan! Our food program costs $500 to operate monthly and our goal is to fund the entire lunch program for a year.