Delicious recipes to fight anemia in Peru

“My life was like any mother’s in Ventanilla (district in the Callao province, Peru). You get up, you make breakfast, you use the few recipes you know. One day, I went to an event on hygiene and food. There were lots of parents there with the same questions I had. After explaining to us which foods have the most iron and how we could improve our children’s health, we made some recipes with sangrecita (chicken blood, inexpensive and high in iron). It really blew us away! For 12 or 15 soles I can barely buy a kilo of chicken meat, but with just 1 sol I can get half or 3/4 of a kilo of chicken sangrecita from the market.

At first sometimes kids don’t like sangrecita, or they don’t find it appealing. In the workshops (cooking training sessions focused on this ingredient) we learned a lot of recipes and tricks, even how to cover up its bitter taste. We made it sweet! For example, we learned how to make “chocolate” cookies with it and our kids ate them right up. We’re happy because we know our kids are eating well and they’re going to be healthy, not anemic.

We’re happy because we know our kids are eating well and they’re going to be healthy, not anemic. And that’s how I became part of the Fundación Repsol Project. I’m Bélgica Sanginez, mother of Iker (4 years old) and Jacob (9 months old). Together with other moms, I’m participating in the second stage of the Promoción de la Seguridad Alimentaria Nutricional para la reducción de la anemia (Promotion of Food Security and Nutrition to Reduce Anemia) program. For me it’s been extremely satisfying to help reduce childhood anemia in my community and help other parents with their children’s food and health. I know that in the next three years the program will help us reduce anemia in children in our community.”

This is Bélgica’s testimony. She was one of the mothers participating in the workshops provided under the Promotion of Food Security and Nutrition to Reduce Anemia project, which the World Food Program (WFP) and Fundación Repsol launched in 2011.

First stage: Reduce childhood anemia (2011-2015)

The primary goal of this initiative was to reduce the percentage of childhood anemia in a part Ventanilla that is close to the La Pampilla Refinery. In 2011, 33% of children under 5 and 63% of children under 2 suffered anemia with a high risk of malnutrition. Iron deficiency has irreversible affects on a child’s development, which is why this initiative was launched with the aim of improving access to low cost foods high in iron, improving food and hygiene habits in the home, and promoting the consumption of micronutrients and safe water.

Six years later, this program has changed the lives of more than 3,000 families in Peru. How? It improved nutrition and eating practices through training and communication strategies that included nutrition and hygiene workshops, informational sessions on nutrition, distributing educational materials, workshops on recipes with chicken blood (rich in iron, low cost, effective against anemia), and visits to families’ homes, all focused on mothers with children under five and pregnant mothers who live in parts of Ventanilla with limited resources.

The moms have played a vital role in the program’s success, which has had a impact nationwide. Thanks to their full participation, “This project is sustainable over time since it’s the moms who, with all the information we’ve given them, are going to spread and perpetuate these hygiene and nutrition habits,” says Isela Yasuda, WFP Nutrition Projects Coordinator. It has also encouraged the creation of “a space to improve the mother-child bond” through minichefs, workshops where the children follow healthy recipes with help from their mothers. These workshops are still held twice a week at the schools.

Cindy Chiu, coordinator of Social Action for Repsol in Peru, has worked on this program and she agrees with Isela. For Cindy, “Collaborating with an initiative like this is very important, not just because of the immediate impact on the community, but because within a few years we’ll see how this work has helped with the nutritional and cognitive development of children in Ventanilla.”

For our employee in Peru, the success of the first stage was evident in having gotten “these children to adopt nutrition and hygiene habits from a very early age.” In 2015, the La Pampilla Refinery received the Sustainable Development Prize in the Community Development category for this initiative.

Second phase: Empowerment of women and teenage nutrition

Given its great results over the first four years, in 2015 the partnership was renewed to undertake a new program for another four years (2016-2020), extending the project’s coverage and number of beneficiaries.

In addition to continuing with their work reducing anemia in children under 5, this second stage adds two new lines: teenagers, who will receive talks on healthy eating in schools, and entrepreneurial women, who will learn to make and market the same low cost nutritional foods by themselves in establishments like the Primer Centro Comunal de Preparación de Comida Infantil (First Community Center for Preparing Children’s Food) which serves more than 100 children under 5.

This work has strengthened the relationships between mothers in Ventanilla. As Isela stresses, the focus now is “to train mothers in business topics,” so they “can sell their products at affordable prices in other markets.” The goal of these workshops, clearly, is not only focused on food but also on generating social and psychological stimuli in the community. “It’s not just about feeding the body; it’s about feeding the heart and soul of these families.”

The program carried out jointly with the WFP is one of Fundación Repsol’s programs aligned with our commitment to local development in Latin American countries. Would you like to know more about similar projects in our Fundación? They’re all on the website!

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