“Ok class, get into groups and come up with the best meal for four that you can with 2 500 cfa (approx. $5.00 cnd)” Our goal was to see what kind of nutritional value the girls’ meals would have in their best meal. Nigeriens normally eat a very carbohydrate rich meal, and among the poor carbohydrates are eaten almost exclusively. One might get a huge portion of rice but nothing else. Our goal with this series of three nutrition lessons was to show these ladies how they can prepare, for the same amount of money, something that will both satisfy their immediate hunger and the long term needs of their bodies.
These are three possibilities of what a girl might make for supper given 2500 cfa
Chantelle started the series by teaching a lesson on different food groups. We simplified it down to three groups – protein, energy, and vitamins. Two girls were asked to come up and separate an allotment of toy food into different group. Just for an idea of their thought process when it comes to preparing a meal, the food groups they came up with were: what you would put in sauce, what you would eat by itself, and fruits and vegetables. Chantelle emphasized the importance of all three groups in the diet of any person.
The next class was taught by Cecilia. She broke down the category ‘vitamins’ and explained some minerals for the girls. She explained to them the importance of each one as well as where to get them. Vitamin A helps your eyes, vitamin C helps you not to get sick, calcium is important for the development of bones and teeth and so on and so forth. Many health problems here are simply due to a lack of vitamins and minerals
Cecilia gives the run down of what vitamins do and where you can find them
To finish the series we talked about 7 superfoods available in Niger. Since people do not have money to waste, it is important for them to know how to get big nutrition for small money.
The first superfood is not really a food. It is more, water, as the local Tuareg people say, is life. “Amman iman”. All the while it is much forgotten. Many girls suffer headaches, and tiredness because of dehydration even when clean water is present. Anywhere, consuming enough water is an integral part of health but in Niger it is even more important when temperatures soar up to and above 50 ̊C’s. Before you think about your rice and sauce, think about water is what the girls were told. Much ailment can be avoiding simply by drinking enough water.
The rest of the locally available superfoods are as follow: Moringa leaves, baobab fruit, sardines, peanuts, bananas and beans. These are all things that most of these girls have already used in their cooking. It is not generally useful to introduce new things because people are pretty set in their ways. So simple encouragement to continue or even amplify use of certain food products is the best bet.
Moringa leaves, peanuts, and beans which are ready to be bagged for the students to take home.
Everyone was sent home with portions of each of the superfoods talked about.
All was reviewed with a fun game which included picking people up, patting them on the back, and jumping down. The made up game was a hit even though it was made up on the spot because the original game idea got lost in translation. And finally the girls made a meal plan with the same 2500 cfa to see if they learned anything. It seems they did.
The girls are enjoying a revision game. It wassn’t quite what I planned it to be, but they had fun and learned something.
It seems that these young ladies enjoyed this series and we are praying that they take it to heart and make more of their money with their food.
We are looking forward to the next health series – dental care.
All photo credit to Chantelle M