It was Hippocrates that said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I believe there is a lot of truth to that. Poor diets in America result in diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Poor diets in Peten result in anemia, neural tube defects, developmental delays, and a few cases of diabetes and hypertension. But food impacts more than just the physical body. It feeds the soul. In abundance, it can provide a feeling of comfort. In shortage, anxiety and fear.
This week, I have seen numerous families without adequate nutrition and numerous families with adequate nutrition. The difference is stark. Families without adequate nutrition have to face more obstacles in life. They may have a child that can’t speak or can’t walk. They may have more infections because of a poor functioning immune system. They may have rotting teeth, making it painful to eat the food they do have and leading to even less nutrition.
There is also a correlation between those that cannot afford food and other risk factors. Families with inadequate nutrition may have dirt floors and no beds. Or they may have many kids in one room or open flame stoves with poor ventilation. So addressing just nutrition is not going to be enough to change these families’ circumstances.
But by providing food and vitamins, I see hope. The kids in the after school program love snack time. The garden here feeds them with fresh fruits and vegetables that keep their minds sharp and their bodies strong. The number of families we have seen with adequate nutrition seem to be increasing. The public schools provide whole, nutritious lunches. Continuing to provide education, school lunches, and garden-grown veggies, I see how much of a positive impact it will have on the community of Santa Ana, Péten. Also, who doesn’t love good food?
Danielle Saevig is a medical student at the University of Toledo. She joined us at the clinic in Guatemala this past week, along with Dr. Anne, Dr. Gary, Dr. Kim, and three other medical students.