Championing super food!

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By Julia Heckbert
UPEI nutrition student
Queen Elizabeth Scholar

This week, we had our first CHAMPS peer-learning nutrition education session with the Gatima women’s group.

For regular readers of Farmers Helping Farmers blogs, you will know that this is an event where the five ‘CHAMPS’ (Champions or leaders) of a local women’s self help group teach their fellow women about the nutritional messages that we have taught them earlier. A huge part of this session is the food that is prepared: our supervisor Jennifer Taylor tells us that providing food samples along with the education greatly increases the credibility of the information.

With the help of the women, we prepared SUPER githeri and SUPER chapati (called “Super” since they are ‘super nutritious’) with extra green and orange vegetables from their home gardens and whole grain maize. Lots of greens and carrots were added to the githeri and mashed carrots were also added to the chapati for extra β-carotene or vitamin A. These practices line up with the nutritional messages taught and gives the women a taste of more nutritious staple dishes. By sampling these foods during the session, we hope the women will be inspired to try making them at home as well!

At the beginning of the CHAMPS session, we were immediately put to work cutting carrots, spinach, onion and tomato. This was no ordinary style of chopping. The Kenyan way of chopping vegetables involves tough hands and no cutting boards! With the women’s help, we were eventually able to do it, although at a much slower pace. We brought Chantel and Hanna, the vet students, with us and they ended up doing a great job chopping vegetables!

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Myself, Chantel, Haley, Hanna, and Dorcas (our translator) cutting vegetables the Kenyan way

We ended up waiting longer than expected for the maize and beans to cook, so were running a bit late. The women waited patiently as we began the teaching part of the session.

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The women reading their handouts as they listen to the CHAMPs teach

Within a few minutes, it started to rain. This was NOT a sprinkle. The sky opened up and it poured. The women tipped over their chairs and moved into the house.

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Chairs left empty due to rain

We were forced to cram 30 women into a small room and they piled on top of one another. It became a very intimate teaching environment! Even so, there were no complaints and our champs were engaged in the teaching.

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The CHAMPs teaching the nutritional messages to their peers in a room overflowing with people

By the time the CHAMPs were finished teaching, the rain had stopped and we all moved back outside to prepare for the meal. Just as we started passing out the SUPER githeri and SUPER chapati, it started to rain again. The women once again piled into the house.

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A chapati-stealing rooster steals the show!

We portioned out the fruit cups and bounced around to each room handing out fruit and collecting empty dishes. Since these rooms are not connected, it was impossible to avoid the rain. By the end of the session, we were soaked and had very muddy shoes.

 

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Even though the day did not go quite as planned, spirits were still high and the women were very accommodating of the unexpected weather. We thanked the women for their time and handed out certificates and gifts. Who knew that carrot peelers would be such a hit! There is no doubt in my mind that they will go to good use.

Teaching, planning, and cooking with the women was a wonderful experience and we learned a lot within a short period of time. There is no better way to learn about a culture than to be directly immersed like we were. I am thankful that we were so welcomed into the group and that I had the opportunity to meet so many friendly women. Working with the Gatima women’s group was a great introduction to our work and I am excited to continue to meet with them and learn even more from many other groups this summer!

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