Healthy Kids, Healthy ForestsA Maya Nut School Lunch Program
Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests is a Maya Nut school lunch program that serves Maya Nut drinks, cookies and other dishes in schools in the most impoverished parts of Central America and requires participating communities to reforest at least 2 hectares of land with Maya Nut and other fruit trees in exchange for receiving the lunches.
Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests was born of the need to reforest sites where Maya Nut has gone locally extinct and to motivate local people to consume Maya Nut because in many places, Maya Nut is stigmatized as food for poor, landless peasants, or for animals. By serving it to children as part of school lunches, we provide children (and their parents and teachers) with a positive Maya Nut experience. We hope this will create a new generation of Maya Nut consumers who appreciate Maya Nut for food and who help us conserve Maya Nut forests. The reforestation component of Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests will ensure that more communities enjoy the ecosystem services provided by Maya Nut forests and also have free and easy access to a source of Maya Nut for food and income.
Our partner in Nicaragua, ProLeizam have developed a new product, Maya Nut SuperCereal for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests program. This is a drink mix containing Maya Nut, toasted corn, soy, sorghum, rice, jicaro seed (Crescentia alata) and spices. Children love it and it has been designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of school-age children.
It has been extremely difficult to find donors or government support for Maya Nut school lunches. In 2010 the program was financed in 22 schools in Guatemala by the family of Sarah Brandt, a Maya Nut Institute board member who passed away. After that there was no further support and no program continuity. We learned three valuable lessons from that experience:
- Maya Nut school lunches are very well received by parents, teachers and children and have positive effects on childrens health and performance in School.
- Maya Nut school lunches create a ripple effect in the community, increasing families’ interest in reforestation and in conservation of Maya Nut forests
- Maya Nut school lunches need to be creatively financed, as they do not fall into “priority funding areas” of any national or international donor or governmental agencies.
In response, we decided to incorporate Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests into our Maya Nut Certified™ program by reinvesting a portion of our income from sales in the program. In 2014 we are proud to distribute Maya Nut school lunches to 7 schools in Guatemala and Nicaragua, financed 100% by sales of Maya Nut in the US.