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Grateful Kids and Cultural Learnings: Reflections from the first month of ‘One Egg a Day’

It’s been one month since the start of One Egg a Day, and we’ve given away 7,920 eggs to date! On January 8, 2018 we boiled up the first batch of 400 eggs, and the students of Escuela Nacional arrived to their first day of school surprised and excited by the gift of a  hard boiled egg.

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Pictures from the first two weeks: Collaboration. Nutrition. Empowerment.

In many ways it feels we’ve only just begun, but we’ve learned a TON this last month, and wanted to share with you some of the most interesting highlights, key learnings, and the incredible feedback we’ve received from the community.

Background

San Marcos la Laguna is an indigenous Mayan community of roughly 5,000, where up to 70% of children experience malnutrition. One Egg a Day / Un Huevo al Dia is an official partnership of San Marcos Foundation and the Escuela Oficial Urbana Mixta Dr. Pedro Molina, the public (free) elementary school in San Marcos la Laguna, with the objective of giving one egg each morning to every student of the school.

 

One Egg a Day was a brainchild of our Executive Director Daisy Shlakman, who is also a certified nutritionist. After lengthy research and investigation, Daisy decided to launch the program around hard boiled eggs for three reasons:

  1. Eggs serve as the most affordable source of protein per gram,
  2. They are simple and relatively quick to hard boil,
  3. When hard boiled they come in their own hygienic, biodegradable packaging so don’t require utensils or cleaning dishes.

 

The project has many complementary goals: the primary goal being to reduce malnutrition and improve health outcomes. Additionally, it’s well documented that hungry kids simply can’t learn. The secondary goals are to increase school attendance and punctuality, and we’re already seeing positive signs of this. And finally, we hope (and expect) that by providing a little protein in the morning, we can also improve learning outcomes. 

With the help of the Ministry of Health, we will measure the students’ height and weight, to evaluate the impact of One Egg a Day

Last year, the Ministry of Health measured the students’ height and weight in October (around the end of the school year). This coming week we are working with government employees to return and re-measure the students height and weight, to serve as a baseline for this year. We will take measures again at the end of the year and compare these to across years to gage the impact of one egg a day on physical outcomes.

We are also tracking school attendance and other learning outcomes to try to measure the impact on our secondary goals. We are also looking to collaborate with researchers or academics to conduct a more formal impact evaluation. If you know of anyone who would like to get involved, please email kate@sanmarcosfoundation.org.

How to hard boil 400+ eggs (and other lessons learned)

Hard boiling the eggs
Rosario hard boiling one batch of eggs

Until January 8, we had only a vague sense of how the hard boiling process would go. The first few days involved a lot of trial and adjustments, but we quickly answered this and many other questions, such as:

Q: How long does it take to hard boil 400+ eggs?

A: Roughly 1 hour in 2 large pots on a double burner propane stove

 

Diego handing out eggs
Diego handing out eggs in the classes

Q: What is the most effective and least disruptive method of distributing the eggs to students?

A: Handing one to each student as they walk through the school gates, instead of going around to each classroom once class is in session (which we originally did).

Q: Will the kids get bored with a simple hard boiled egg every morning?

A: The answer was a resounding YES. We first heard this on day 2 when staff and teachers warned us that a hard boiled egg is not considered a full meal, or even a full snack without a tortilla. Giving out a hard boiled egg without a tortilla is like handing someone a spoonful of peanut butter with no cracker.

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Kids enjoying their tortillas in the hall

To show the school we were listening, on Tuesday of the second week, we provided each student 2 tortillas (from separate funding), as a one time event. Although numerous stakeholders asked about the possibility of including tortillas as part of the project, our gut reaction was to decline. Corn tortillas are a main staple of the diet in San Marcos, but add close to zero nutritional value above simple calories. The people of San Marcos eat tortillas with every meal as a way to fill up, and so an egg without a tortilla simply doesn’t feel like a meal. However, since we want to focus on improving nutrition and other outcomes, not just feeding the village for free, we decided against providing any more tortillas for now.

The school is creating an entire meal plan around our eggs!

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The school kitchen – where all the magic happens!

In December, we learned that the federal government of Guatemala gives public schools a modest budget to provide snacks to students. Last year their budget was 1.11Q per student per day (the Guatemalan currency is called the Quetzal, roughly 7Q=$1USD). This year the government increased the budget to 3Q per student per day, or roughly $0.42. In the past the food committee served a rotating menu of snacks and a warm drink each morning. This year, with the addition of our eggs, they’ve built a robust 2-week meal plan that was so exciting to see.

Semana / Week 1 Semana / Week 2
Lunes

Monday

Huevos y frijoles

Eggs & beans

Huevos revueltos con tomate y cebolla

Scrambled eggs w/tomato & onion

Martes

Tuesday

Huevos con salsa y banano

Eggs w/salsa & a banana

Huevos y sandia

Eggs & watermelon (slice)

Miercoles

Wednesday

Corn flakes y huevos

Corn flakes & eggs

Corn flakes choc y huevos

Chocolate corn flakes & eggs

Jueves

Thursday

Huevos (pan) francés

Eggs w/french bread

Huevos (pan) francés

Eggs w/french bread

Viernes

Friday

Tamal

Tamale

Frijoles huevos

Beans & eggs

(We’re now brainstorming ways to partner with the school to include more vegetables in the meal plan, but for now, it’s not bad!)

We set the stage for strong community involvement

Since our mission is to launch SUSTAINABLE projects that will eventually become fully COMMUNITY LED, we are intent on building strong, trusting relationships in the community. (Stay tuned for updates on our plans to source future eggs from our chicken farm co-op!) This month has been packed with stakeholder engagement meetings, promoting the project around town and taking advantage of every opportunity to build a positive reputation of the San Marcos Foundation and ‘Un Huevo al Día’.

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School director Justiniano and kitchen staff Rosario handing out eggs just inside the front door

Daisy has been making waves around town putting up posters and handing out flyers, sometimes with an extra hard boiled egg, in order to raise community awareness.

During the second week of school, Daisy gave a speech at a town assembly attended by close to 1000 people – all the parents and students in the village! She emphasized our desire to collaborate and design projects with community input and gave out hundreds of flyers with our website and contact info. We also set up a suggestion box in the school front office (which has turned into informal headquarters).

 

We’ve spoken with dozens of municipal government officials, school staff, teachers, parents, and others, to solicit feedback and see how the community was receiving the project. We’ve been getting great initial feedback especially from the school director and key municipal government officials. We are excited to continue to collaborate and strengthen these relationships to expand this project and others.

Daisy has a new nickname around town

Finally, although she was already well known around town, Daisy has taken on the nickname “Un huevo al dia”. Whenever the children in town see her walking down the street, they shout to her “UN HUEVO AL DIA!”. Why don’t they call her “the egg lady” or something more nickname-esque? This is one cultural question we can’t yet answer, and Daisy’s not too bothered by it. 🙂

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Do you have 5 mins to show us some LOVE? ❤

There are lots of ways you can help support our work besides just donating (which is still much needed and always appreciated!)

THANK YOU for continuing to support our work!