Corazon de los niños: Boosting healthy eating

Nowadays, the demand and consumption of organic and/or artisanal products has been growing thanks to those people who want to improve their eating habits or need a special diet. These products are valued for the multiple benefits they bring to the body and they are good quality foods because they contain little or no chemicals. Soy milk is a beverage that can be produced in an artisanal way and is being used as a food supplement due to its low fat content, and for its nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that help maintain cholesterol levels, providing protein and strengthening the immune system.

In Guatemala, artisanal soy milk is being manufactured by some companies but also by local groups and/or organizations located in different regions of the country. Asociación Corazón de los Niños, is one of the community organizations that has taken a chance on the production of this product. This association seeks to help underprivileged children of school age with education, health, and food and nutritional security. The association has been working for approximately 30 years in the communities of San Pedro las Huertas Antigua Guatemala, San Miguel Dueñas and Santo Tomas Milpas Altas, in the department of Sacatepéquez.

Its programs have been designed according to the needs of the families: in the education program, scholarships are provided to low-income children; in the entrepreneurship program, the aim is to create businesses and improve the economic conditions of the beneficiaries; and in the health program, basic services such as medical and psychological care, laboratory and pharmacy are provided. In addition, through its nutrition program, it seeks to minimize the infant mortality rate, offering education to families to improve the nutritional status of children.

The Asociación Corazón de los Niños also wants to reduce the rates of child malnutrition in the locality and for this reason they have launched the project “Como bien, crezco sano” (I eat well, grow healthy) which consists in the production and distribution of soy milk to contribute to the quality of nutrition of children who have some degree of malnutrition, improving their physical and mental development.

Lilian Martinez, Director of the Association, explains that the soy beverage “is a food that contains nutrients that favor the growth of underweight children; consuming it can help them to have a better school performance and also contributes to the reduction of malnutrition rates in the country”.  Through several efforts, Corazón de los Niños received support from an international cooperation agency to build its small soy milk production plant. Three years after the implementation of the project, significant achievements have been obtained, providing families with food of high nutritional value. Currently, the process of pasteurization, flavoring and packaging of the beverage is being developed in order to be able to sell it. In this way, it is expected that the profits will be reinvested in the association’s programs. This will allow more children to continue their studies at the pre-primary, elementary, and secondary school levels.

In the long term, they expect the soy milk will be a 100% organic beverage that complies with all the necessary measures to generate greater demand and promote its commercialization at an accessible price. Furthermore, it is expected to benefit the community with jobs, through the different stages of the product’s production. The idea is to take advantage of all the derivatives from soybeans to process them into flour and okara (soybean pulp), a product that is used in food manufacturing.