You Are What You Eat

This week's guest blog comes from Krysta Peterson, our house walking human dictionary who has a tendency to make up words and mash-up sentences. More importantly, she is our nutrition enthusiast who has been working with a local school, Aliñambi, since August, on starting up a nutrition education program. After months of hard work, she now helps run an inclusive nutrition program. This program focuses on educating students through hands-on learning with an overall goal to raise students' self-efficacy in food consumption and decision making. Here's a glimpse into working with these enthusiastic sixth graders twice a week!

Charlas! Portfolios! Cooking Classes! School Garden! Oh my! If you think those sound fun, just imagine the excitement and enthusiasm coming from our 6th graders each week as we walk in the gates at Aliñambi to do just that. After 7 months working with Aliñambi and nutrition with little physical evidence, I am thoroughly ecstatic, to say the least, about starting this nutrition program with the kids there. I believe through these kids is where we will be able to really initiate a change towards healthy lifestyles for these communities.

Along with Profes Haley and Jackie we will be teaching nutrition through charlas (lectures), thought provoking portfolio work, and hands-on cooking classes and a class garden. Every Tuesday I will be leading the class through charlas and portfolio work based on topics from the food pyramid to macro and micronutrients to hygiene. And every Friday Chef Haley and Sous Chef Krysta will be leading the culinary trainees with watchful eyes as they learn to wash and cut vegetables and make healthy meals using all local goods. Farmer Jackie and Farmhand Bibi will be leading the apprentices in designing and building their own garden to include radishes, lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, and basil…can anyone else see delicious salads in our future?! Yum!

Today we finished our second full week of class and despite a few punishments after a dirt-throwing jaunt everything has been going great. I truly believe in these kids’ ability to succeed in this program and their capacity to realize they have control over their nutritional lives and can promote permanent change at home.

Last week we didn’t realize we were not allowed to take photos at the school, so these are a few and probably the only pictures we will have for evidence that this program actually took place. Enjoy them while they’re hot!

Krysta, Erik, Chet, Mike and Sarah lending a helping hand in the huerto (which was all grass before we started)

Two hours later...

Krysta and some of our Aliñambi students

amor + nutrition,


Updates from the States

Amid snowstorms, santa clause, and satellite TV, I'm missing Ecuador (especially the climate) and reporting adventures to you! Wishfully thinking that maybe you miss us too, here are some exciting updates from break so far:

During our first weekend of break one of my very close friends Dana Zichlin hosted a party in Manhattan to raise funds for her feasibility trip to Guatemala. As you may know, MPI is working on a third site expansion and accepted proposals through November. After months of preparation, Dana will be heading to train with us in Ecuador in late January, followed by a seven week feasibility trip in Guatemala. We are so excited to spend time with Dana in Ecuador and show her the Manna ropes!

Helping a stuck sedan en route to the fundraiser

Dana and Chris Taylor cheers-ing to Manna

Love you Dana!

We also have exciting news to share about our kitchen project! The Peterson family graced us with a visit right before winter break. In addition to giving us tips on how to improve our grill and helping put together our shelves, they also graciously donated kitchen supplies for our cooking class.

Cosas de Petersons:
2 slip-resistant cutting mats, 3 oven mitts/potholders, 4 kitchen towels, 1 dishcloth, 6 dish scrubbers, 3 rubber spatulas, 8-piece utensil set, 4 wooden spoon set, grater, 2 peelers, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, 4 paring knives

A huge thank you to the Peterson family!! For more information about this project and our full wish list click here.

Enjoy the last day of the decade and have a fantastic and safe New Years!
- Jackie

Top Chef: Ecuador

I’m happy to report that all nine PDs are back in Ecuador and accounted for. After spending our Thanksgiving holidays globetrotting to Nicaragua for the MPI 5-year reunion, Argentina, Venezuela and the good old US of A, we’re all glad to be back in the country we call home. Though we only have two weeks from today until winter break, there’s a lot to be wrapped up and more importantly, lots of brainstorming to be had envisioning new projects to start in January.

One such project is building a kitchen on the third floor of our library. As you may have read in previous posts, this space is now being used for English and natural science classes as well as women’s exercise. The focus groups that we’ve held have emphasized the importance of nutrition education in our community. Last year’s PDs also hosted two different cooking classes for the women in our exercise classes.

The goal of these classes is to increase the extent of which Ecuadorian produce is cooked with as well as how to maximize their nutritional value. In order to accomplish this goal, we plan to install a kitchen on our third floor.

We’ve compiled a wish list, in order of necessity below. Sonia and Krysta have spent the past month running around the valley pricing these items and compiling a comprehensive budget for this project.

Our Wish List:

  1. Stove
  2. Gas tanks (2)
  3. Gas hose (6m)
  4. Wood for gas tank cover
  5. Plastic table
  6. Water filter
  7. Dish rack
  8. Set of knives (2)
  9. Pans (3)
  10. Plastic mixing blows (4)
  11. Peeler (3)
  12. Measuring cups
  13. Measuring spoons
  14. Forks (12)
  15. Knives (12)
  16. Spoons (12)
  17. Oven pan (2)
  18. Metal grater
  19. Whisk
  20. Wood spoons (3)
  21. Strainer
  22. Rubber spatula (2)
  23. Laddel (2)
  24. Pot (26cm)
  25. Pot (22cm)
  26. Wood cutting board (2)
  27. Plastic cutting board (2)
  28. Metal spatula (1)
  29. Rolling pin
  30. Fine strainer
  31. Plastic shelves (3)
  32. Pot hooks (7)
  33. Spice rack
  34. Oven mits (2)
  35. Plates (10)
  36. Bowls (10)
  37. Plastic cups (10)
  38. Cake pan (2)
  39. Towel set

In total, our wish list items add up to an expense of $735.20. We plan to cover food costs from inscriptions or from asking our students to bring in items. Our short-term goal is to get this class up and running as soon as we obtain enough donations to cover our basic expenses. Any support that you would be able to give towards this project would be so appreciative; we literally can’t do it without you!

Checks can be made out to Manna Project International, with “Ecuador kitchen” in the memo. Checks should be mailed to the MPI headquarters in Nashville:

Manna Project International

P.O. Box 121052

Nashville, TN 37212

Additionally, support can be given online at Please click "donate here!" and when prompted, fill in “Ecuador kitchen” designated on under the‘support for.’

We're no strangers to the kitchen, cooking for each other 6 days a week

Only fresh from the local market produce in our kitchen!

If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to learn more about this project please feel free to e-mail me here.

Stay tuned to our side bar as we keep you updated on our fundraising status and project process!

Cheers, Jackie

Nutrition, Art, and Everything in Between

This week's guest blog comes from Sonia Patel (or Soña as the library kids like to write), our token vegetarian. For a petite person, Sonia's laugh and/or screams can be heard all the way from the apartment. Sonia leads weekly inspirational nutrition charlas, helps run Art class, goes out of her way on a daily basis to make sure she does not step in animal feces, AND is in the process of applying for Med school. Not to mention, wrote us a guest blog during quarterly report week. For all of these reasons as more, I adore her and after reading this I know you will too!

Krysta, Sonia, Dunc and Shawn way back when in Mindo

"When I first came to Ecuador, I reveled in the beauty that surrounded me, from the geographical setting of the Andes Mountains to the colorful clothing of another culture. There was so much to observe and reflect upon that during my first couple of weeks, I found myself exhausted and ready for bed at 7:30p.m. much like a newborn baby. As time passed, I metaphorically grew up; my senses were no longer faced with a slew of new sounds, sights, and smells left time and energy for a more productive organ: my brain.

Deciding which major to pursue at the University of Virginia, was one of the most conflicting and confusing tasks I had to accomplish, precisely because there were too many options. In my biology classes, I felt as if a philosophical background would soften scientific thinking. While in the economics classes, I know that a sociological study would strengthen economic theories centered on human behavior.

I was finally absolved of the restrictive feelings and college mandate of specialization when I began working for Manna. Anything was possible and like a greedy child on Thanksgiving I piled a varied assortment on my plate: I'm working with Sarah on opening a preventative health clinic, co-teach Children's Art classes with Chet, giving nutrition presentations before Haley's yoga classes, occasionally acting as Jackie's gardening partner, shadowing the emergency room at the public Sangloqui hospital and supporting Krysta on the beginnings of a nutrition program at Aliñambi.

Such an agenda provides for constant knowledge and entertainment. For instance, I learned that doctors are required to work for a year in rural communities, most Ecuadorian meals are not balanced with enough vegetables, Jackie accidently killed (and mourned) the one worm we found for composting, and that in every art class one particular girl will cut out her drawings and hang them by a string of yarn.

However, using that productive brain doesn't completely suppress the inner child within. Whether it is indulging myself in the pleasures of a Magnum ice cream bar (America you are really missing out... a comparison to say Haagen-Dazs would only be 10% accurate) or hitting everyone's butt in the Manna house, sometimes my senses, missing that initial onrush, beg for more.

Sonia with some of her fellow health programmers

[ Side note: apologies for the list of activites. It's specifically meant for my family. It's funny how during our Skype conversations, they congratulate me more for learning how to cook (shh.. don't tell them about than for working on programs. ]

- Sonia"

A Clinic Worth Fighting For

Hey ya'll,

I'm Krysta Peterson, the honored guest blogger for this week. Woohoo! To keep Chet's tradition going, go ahead and put on "Something like That" by Tim McGraw in the background.

To give a brief overview of who I am and why I'm here, I graduated from the University of Texas, Austin in May of 2008 with a BS in Kinesiology and worked at a hospital in August the following year. The real word of 8+ hour work days just wasn't where I pictured myself being after I graduated. I studied abroad in Chile in 2007 and absolutely fell in love with the culture and warmth of South America. Since then I'd been longing to return and when the opportunity to apply for Manna fell into my lap, I know it was something I couldn't pass up. So here I am writing the guest blog for MPI Ecuador on this brisk Ecuadorian Wednesday night! I am one of five lovely ladies working in health this year and have been selected to be the point person for a program with a local school/clinic named Aliñambi. I am also helping Shawn in working with the Ministry of Health, as well working with Chet and Haley on adult English classes. You'll just have to wait until my PD interview to find out the juicy stuff. ;)

Krysta being nutritious and delicious in front of her Charla poster

As Sarah mentioned earlier this week, this past weekend we ran a clinic at Aliñambi for the communities we work with. It was preceded by hours of meetings, preparation and shot nerves; Ecuador's planning style isn’t exactly what we’re used to in the US. But it all paid off and, in my opinion, the clinic went almost flawlessly. We had 3 doctors, a pharmacy that charged $1 per medication, tables full of Ecuador-specific nutrition and Manna information, and an awesome interactive dental talk where we taught kids how to properly brush and floss. We had 133 patients in total, and though we had hoped for more, we were grateful for those who came and happy to be able to aid as much of the community as we did.

The future champion flosser of Ecuador

Jens discovering the true affect of Amor cookies on children's teeth

I have participated in free clinics in Mexico in college but actually being a point person on this clinic and having the nerves about whether or not everything we had planned would turn out right made this clinic affect me differently. Living within communities here in Ecuador and seeing how people respond to the ‘gringos’ and my blonde hair everyday made me view my experience with Manna and my year down here differently. I was completely taken aback watching Ecuadorians walk into this gringo-licious clinic with immediate confidence in us. I couldn’t fathom that simply being American gave us the right to instantaneously earn the trust of Ecuadorians to the extent that they were willing to put their trust and lives in our hands. I am elated that we can come down here and help these people without question but at the same time it frustrates me to know that so few Americans realize the power we hold to make a difference.

I am so thankful for Manna for giving me the chance to be able to provide the type of aid that I could only dream of providing in the US after becoming a Physician Assistant. The clinic was a perfect opportunity for me to dive into international healthcare and jump start my programmatic goals for the year.

Chet and Jackie doling out prescriptions at the farmacia

Haley and Krysta sport the shirts that Krysta designed: Go Manna!



Ps. If anyone can name the reference for this blog's title in the comments section, Krysta will award you with una sopresa!