Health and Nutrition
For Via International, sustainable community development implies an integrated system, dependent upon the optimal health of the individual, of the community, of the economy and of the environment. Optimal health of the individual and the community requires adequate nutrition and adequate nutrition requires access to healthy food. Healthy food requires a healthy ecosystem supported through sustainable agriculture. A healthy sustainable agricultural system then supports a thriving economy. This system is the backbone that provides food security for every community.
Food Security requires a system that ensures access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. As defined by USAID, food security is “when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs in order to lead a healthy and productive life." (USAID)
For a community to be food secure, food must be:
- available in sufficient quantity
- easily and affordably accessible by purchase or barter
- properly handled, stored, and prepared
There are many strategies needed to achieve Food Security
Via's approach has been to develop the capacity of community health workers (promotoras) to conduct education and develop programs related to family health and food security in hard to reach populations.
Nutrition Education - Via International has worked in the border region through community outreach workers for three decades, providing training in basic Nutrition Education for mothers and children. Delivered by Los Niños promotoras (outreach workers), the course includes cost effective recipes as well as health themes on high incidence issues such as diabetes. This approach weaves the community together to address other community concerns.
Ecology Education - This same approach provides project participants with information regarding organic gardening, composting and recycling. Via and Los Niños provide the tools for individuals and communities to start and harvest from home and community gardens to improve access to fresh, organic vegetables and improve overall health and wellness.
Anemia Testing and Nutrition Supplementation - Via and Los Niños continue to conduct anemia testing for children ages 3-5 throughout low income areas of Tijuana to identify and respond to the needs of this vulnerable population. By identifying at-risk youth before they enter school, we can work towards preparing them to succeed in school. This intervention is coupled with family nutrition education and the provision of school breakfasts and lunches in underserved areas of the city.