10-8-14  |  Success Story

How School Meals Change Lives

BY: Anina Hewey

When the clock hits noon in Las Sabanas, that means time for lunch!  School lunch is always a joyous time of day; it’s uplifting to watch children stream in from a morning of classes, chattering and laughing over a hot meal.  However, behind this program lies a harsh reality: for many of the children in attendance, this will be their only full meal of the day.

Las Sabanas is located in the northern region of Nicaragua, where nearly half of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and growth stunting.  Families struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table.  For children in Las Sabanas, one guaranteed healthy meal each day can make an incredible difference.

School lunch at the Fabretto center in Las Sabanas

Gerald, age 10, and his 7-year-old sister Deyling are two of the many students who wait in line for lunch each day.  Just five years ago, Gerald’s family would never have imagined that he could reach the 4th grade. In his first years of life, Gerald suffered from chronic malnutrition and severe anemia.  His mom recounts: “They were so weak they couldn’t walk without help. They could hardly stand.”  With so many health problems, he was physically unable to go to preschool.

Five years ago, Fabretto’s team reached out to Gerald’s family to offer support in health and nutrition.  Through these programs, his mother was able to access medications and supplements for Gerald and his sister, and Gerald enrolled in Fabretto’s education and lunch programs. “Without these programs my children wouldn’t be alive today,” says Gerald’s mom.

Each day, our school nutrition program strives to serve “un Plato del Buen Comer,” or a Healthy Eating Plate (a graphic representation of a healthy daily diet similar to the food pyramid).  Fabretto meals are planned to fulfill at least 60% of the daily caloric recommendation for each child with foods that have nutritional value.

The Healthy Eating Plate

The meals that Gerald and his sister eat each day including foods fortified with essential vitamins and minerals (soy, potatoes, rice), thanks to our partnerships with organization like Food for the Poor and Feed My Starving Children.  In Fabretto kitchens, parent volunteers combine these staples with fresh fruits and veggies from school gardens and other supplemental foods (beans, chicken, dairy products, cereals, and more) to provide a balanced plate to help at-risk children learn and grow.

Fabretto’s intervention has literally changed Gerald’s life. Not only did he survive his chronic anemia, but after five years of balanced meals based on the above model, Gerald has become one of the brightest and most active students in his class. His teacher, who has witnessed his transformation recounts, “Gerald used to be very quiet, he would never participate. Now he is always the first to raise his hand.” Gerald is even a group leader in his Fabretto reinforcement class, which he attends every day. His teacher said, “In order to motivate people you need to be happy, and Gerald is always so active and positive. He makes the perfect group leader.”

Gerald and his sister Deyling today

To learn more about our nutrition program, click here.  To make a donation to support school meals for children like Gerald, please click here.

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