22 May Real Food for Real Kids | Nutrition in Our Homes
Regardless of where you are in the world, children must consume the right number of calories and nutrient-rich foods to grow into strong and healthy adults. Taking into consideration the role of nutrition and how it directly correlates with brain development, the Aunties, Uncles and cooks in our homes look to promote and build healthy eating habits amongst our 100 kids.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Despite having an immense agricultural sector which employs 40% of the total population and generates over 26% of their Gross Domestic Product, many Kenyan families lack access to nutritious foods and young children become susceptible to malnutrition. In some cases, we cross paths with undernourished children who need loving care and medical treatment to come back to full health. When Sammy came into our care he had developed a condition known as kwashiorkor due to undernutrition. This caused him to have swelling in his belly, legs and head. He was treated with physical therapy, nutrients and plenty of love from the Aunties, Uncles and other kids.
In both our homes, food enables us to spend time with each other and connect. We live by the famous saying that a “family who eats together stays together”. Because of this, in each of our homes, whether a special meal or regular meal, staff and kids use this time to forge new bonds or cement old ones. Aunties and Uncles also use the time before and after the meals to instill responsibility and teach life skills to our kids with tasks like cooking, setting the table, serving food and cleaning up. Our head cooks James (Kitalale) and Kefa (Kikuyu) have even taken some of our kids under their wing as sous-chefs and provided them with additional training in the kitchen.
Sourcing Our Food
To supplement what we grow in our own garden and farms, we use local vendors on a daily basis to supply groceries and other kitchen supplies like potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, fruit, beef, chicken, cooking oil, and spices. Sourcing these items from community members boosts the local economy and builds relationships with those around us. Support goes both ways; many of these vendors donate part of their wares and have shown their support throughout the years. For instance, Jane who supplies to our Kitalale home occasionally donates fruits so that our kids can have fresh juice. Irene, the Kikuyu counterpart donates pumpkins and butternut that are used to make toddler food from scratch. All six of our babies are growing strong thanks to this healthy compote made with love!
In the mornings, our kids typically have brewed chai tea available alongside buttered bread and eggs. For lunch and dinner, the standard menu is a healthy mix of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. Some of our kids’ favorites include ugali (cornmeal porridge), rice, chapati (flatbread), chicken, beef, beans or peas. When it comes to snacking, it is a sensitive topic in our home and can cause controversy amongst our kids – especially when the older kids are on their school breaks and want unlimited snacks throughout the day. In the past, slices of bread, fruits or biscuits meant for the following day would mysteriously disappear so Kefa, our head chef, decided to introduce a lock to the kitchen storage to deter sneaky boys like Francis from the goods.
Every now and then, we surprise the kids with special meals from our regular menu. These include some of their all-time favorite dishes like tilapia (whole fish) or fingerlings (famously known as omena) which are an ultimate hit when fried and served with ugali. These dishes can be expensive and require additional time to make, which is why they are only served occasionally. When it happens, the Aunties get the older kids to help remove hundreds of bones from the fish. Watching this collaboration and transfer of knowledge is so precious. To switch things up, we sometimes have restaurant outings which allow our kids to meet community members and practice their manners in an external environment. During these off-site visits, kids love ordering french fries and fried chicken since they don’t get to have them regularly in the home.
During her latest trip to Kenya, Elaine, our Chief Operating Officer, challenged Abraham, our Director of Operations in Kenya, to a friendly ping-pong competition where the loser of the match had to sponsor an outing for the kids. The kids got to play and compete prior to the big match, which elevated their excitement and energy in the room. When the time came for Elaine and Abraham to compete, the kids divided themselves between teams and cheered for both competitors. The game started with pomp and color. Abraham won the first set by two points. Elaine put a spirited attack in the second set and lost by a mere point. Abraham then won by 3 points in the last set. Cheers from the kids in both teams filled the room knowing that at the end of the day, it was a win-win for all – kids on both teams would be guaranteed a nice dinner out no matter who won. This tournament was such a success it’ll certainly not be our last time having one.
It is our job and responsibility to nourish the minds and bodies of our future generations. Every month, it takes $100 per child to ensure proper nutrition for our kids. We truly appreciate our wonderful donors and champions which have enabled us to provide the highest quality ingredients and food to our developing kids.
Whether it is a one-time or an ongoing donation, every cent counts towards providing a bright future for our kids. We invite you to make a contribution to the General Fund to continue supporting, nourishing and providing real food for real kids.