Poco a Poco and FoodBank Lakeside now have two food assistance programs in San Pedro Itzicán and the surrounding villages.
The first provides food despensas to 72 kidney patients on dialysis. The second provides an afternoon meal 5 days a week to over 300 children ages 3 to 13 (in San Pedro, La Peña and Mango).
Despensas to Kidney Patients
San Pedro Itzicán has the highest rate of childhood kidney disease per capita in the world. Studies indicate that 40% of children in San Pedro, a village of about 5,000, have the disease or a precursor of the disease. This progressive fatal disease often starts when a child is three or four years old and is usually asymptomatic.
Symptoms such as puffiness, trouble concentrating, urinary incontinence, fatigue, anemia, and delayed development start to appear 5 to 10 years later. By the time these symptoms become apparent, the disease has advanced to a stage that dialysis is usually needed. Most who die of the disease in San Pedro are in their twenties and some are even younger.
Yesenia Perales helps with distribution of despensas to families with kidney patients in an area close to San Pedro
Having a young family member on dialysis is a great financial and emotional burden on families. Dialysis sometimes involves the time and expense of traveling to a clinic. The person on dialysis may need special assistance as the disease progresses. While some patients receive support from various sources to pay for their medication, others do not and have to find a way to pay for expensive lifesaving medication themselves. For all these reasons, these are some of the most vulnerable families in San Pedro. Without food assistance some of these families must make heartbreaking choices between food for the family or medical care for the patient.
A group called FoodBank Lakeside provides funding for Poco a Poco to buy food every week for 72 families dealing with dialysis. The food is packaged by the Brigada team, into despensas consisting of rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal, soya crunch, a few vegetables and other items that vary depending on food donations. These families always express relief and gratitude that the burden of providing food for the family is alleviated.
Children's Community Kitchen Program
Malnutrition among children in San Pedro is a widespread and serious problem. One study involving a doctor examining a sample of children found that 70% were malnourished. The typical diet in San Pedro is lacking both in quantity and quality of food. Malnutrition in children is related to a myriad of cognitive and physical delays and is always listed as a risk factor for childhood kidney disease.
The inspiration for starting the Children's Community Kitchen program was to begin to address the problem of malnutrition in San Pedro, an issue with heightened consequences because of the childhood kidney disease.
The program started with providing a healthy afternoon meal to 80 children in one location in 2019. After changes had to be made because of Covid, this changed so that the children lined up to be given food, that they would take home to eat. Since January 2021, we are back feeding the children at the main Brigada office (Kid's Community Kitchen) and the program has now expanded to 3 locations where over 300 children are served a meal 5 days a week.
Every week Poco a Poco buys large bags of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, cactus, and other seasonal vegetables, large quantities of fruits, 50 k chicken, rice, lentils and beans. Large quantities of soup bones are collected from local butchers either for free or at a minimal cost. The total cost per week is about 8,400 pesos or $420 US ($512 CAN).
Now that school is back in session, the meal is served at noon so that the children who attend morning school can have a meal when their school ends at noon and the children who attend afternoon school can come for a meal before heading to their 1:00 classes.
Our grateful thanks to the "Chicken Chicks & Roosters". These donors generously pre-pay to provide chickens to be purchased for the Community Kitchen meals.
We purchase 5 kilos of chickens at cost, for around 1,100 pesos a week. Our grateful thanks to Chicken Chicks & Roosters and the Los Sabinos coordinators Rita Phillips and Sandi Lindsay. But we always need more funding to include these additional meals... so we need more Chicken Chicks & Roosters!
The meals are prepared by a team of village women who cook in one of the three locations. Starting at 7 am, they, and some of the Brigada youth, begin the food preparation for the day. The women have a schedule of meals so that every Monday one type of meal is prepared, every Tuesday another type of meal is prepared, etc.
These are the three teams preparing, cooking and helping with distribution of the food to the children. And the Brigada youth who assist with food preparation 5 days a week.
The food is transported in the back of the Brigada pickup truck to take to the other two locations where teams of village women organize the children and serve them a meal. The children bring their own bowls and cups which they take home to clean. In this way virtually no litter is generated, an important consideration in a village with very limited garbage pickup.