How To: Develop a Nutrition Program

Proper nutrition is a focus in many FIMRC project sites and programs, as nutrition has a large impact on all individuals' health, from babies to adults! As Ecuador's site, Project Anconcito, develops out its programming for the community, nutrition education is seen again and again as a needed focus. Several staff members and volunteers have been crucial in ensuring the nutrition of children improves. Chris and Lauren Diroff, medical and MPH students from Michigan State University, helped to initially collect and analyze data for FIMRC, while the nutrition course was developed by nutritionists Holly and Estefaniá. The course focuses on weekly themes, including: my plate and basic nutrition education, food safety, healthy/high calorie recipes, feeding children when they are sick, breastfeeding, nutrition for pregnant women, and other nutritional topics. A lesson plan, activity, handout, and a poster were prepared for each of the classes to keep parents and children engaged and help retain the information reviewed during the lessons. Read how we're able to go from nothing to positive results with our nutrition programs!


Step 1- Community Census

When Project Anconcito was first established, one of the first challenges to tackle was to complete a community census that would help identify major health trends as well as issues faced by community members.  Well, as you may remember our local volunteers knocked it out of the park, surveying over 7000 individuals within Anconcito and the surrounding communities. With this much data, FIMRC was able to better determine what health concerns were most prevalent, and begin to think about how to address them through access, education, and participation.


Step 2- Analyze data

In addition to the child nutritional status data collected during the initial census, an anemia screening completed in February was completed. These two screenings led FIMRC to compile a list of 800 total children to evaluate for proper nutritional statuses! Holly, a volunteer nutritionist who spent the month of March in Anconcito, then analyzed the data. She looked particularly at the z-scores for height and weight as well as hemoglobin levels, and ranked the children by nutritional status. Those with the highest level of nutritional deficiency were put at the top of the list.


Step 3- Follow Up

Holly and Estefaniá (a part-time nutritionist from Santa Elena) then spent 2 weeks visiting the families of the children identified through the data analysis. The first measurements were taken 7-9 months prior, and so it was important to verify that their measurements hadn't changed. They re-measured weights and heights, and from the visits decided on the top 30 children with nutritional deficiencies in Anconcito.


Step 4- Set up shop (or class)

From the children identified, they mapped their locations by zone and chose 3 locations to hold weekly nutrition courses. Then it was time to invite the families! They spent a week hand delivering invitations to each family from the 30 children identified. Classes are held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week for 2 hours each, with the course lasting 8 weeks total. About 10 families attend each class, which is an incredible turnout! Holly and Estefaniá started teaching the classes together, and now Estefaniá teaches with the help of a local volunteer, Ketty. Each week they measure and record the weights of the children, and also provide a weeks’ worth of vitamins for each child over the age of 2. The mothers are engaged and ask questions, and each week Estefanía asks them to share a change they made in their cooking or in their child’s diet that week. It's wonderful to have the continued participation throughout the program!


Step 5- Follow Up (again)

After families complete the course, follow up visits will continue to take place on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to ensure the children are meeting their developmental and nutritional goals. 

While it may break down to 5 (seemingly) easy steps, it takes an incredible amount of dedication, knowledge, and effort to plan, create, and execute programs like this nutrition program. We are so grateful for the work done by Chris, Holly, Estefaniá, Ketty, and our volunteers (local and international) who have helped implement this project. With Chris and Lauren's help, Field Operations Manager Rachel will be able to submit his report and findings to the GAD and Ministry of Health in Ecuador to better understand nationally the impact of nutrition. Proper nutrition is incredibly important in children reaching their full potential, and FIMRC is dedicated to helping children, from their infancy, to doing just that!


To read Chris and Lauren's guest blog about their experience in Anconcito, click here!