Monday, October 15, 2012

Volunteers Say "Yes!" to Sí a La Leche

It's perplexing that Nicaragua, Central America's leading producer of dairy exports and livestock, lags the furthest behind in terms of the region's dairy consumption. In fact, although estimates put annual per capita milk production at 75 liters, eight liters of soda are consumed for every liter of milk consumed in Nicaragua. Across the country, dairy consumption is declining, while sugary drinks and canned goods are being downed in increasingly large numbers.

Ms. Brathwaite giving a presentation to a group of students.
To combat the health hazards this trend presents, Farmer to Farmer volunteer Kshinte Brathwaite joined forces with the Sí a La Leche campaign two years ago to promote the nutritional aspects of dairy products to school children. The initiative partners with the Nicaraguan Chamber of Dairy (CANISLAC) to give presentations at various schools and learning centers near Managua through hands-on activities. At the schools and learning centers, volunteers also share information about the benefits of dairy consumption with mothers and members of the community. The target age range is 3-8, though adolescents as old as 15 have been educated.
Students awaiting milk samples.

During her dairy assignment in 2010, Ms. Brathwaite, a Farmer to Farmer veteran, served as the campaign's "official nutritionist" and instructed groups of up to 400 students and caregivers through interactive presentations and printed materials. She also participated in news and radio interviews to stress not only the nutritional value of milk, but its cheap price relative to other beverages such as soda and juice, as well. The main message Ms. Brathwaite conveyed related to the nutritional benefits of consuming dairy products and recommended servings, with the desired end result being increased knowledge of dairy products and their value among the local schoolchildren. 

A small group discussion using Sí a La Leche materials.
Continuing where Ms. Brathwaite left off, Betania (Batya) Silva will be traveling to Nicaragua this month to further promote and work with Sí a La Leche. Ms. Silva has previously volunteered with Farmer to Farmer in Nicaragua to educate communities about nutritionspecifically, the importance of having a balanced diet that is heavily reliant on home-grown vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and protein foods. Both Ms. Brathwaite and Ms. Silva have worked for the University of Wisconsin as extension nutrition education specialists.

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