World Food Day—Young Adults Learn Farm Management
By Judith Santiago*
September 29, 2009— Food is a daily challenge for Armenia’s institutionalized children and people who are elderly. As poverty impacts one-third of the country’s population, many of the nation’s poor are coping with food shortages by reducing the number of meals eaten per day and serving cheaper, less nutritious foods.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Foods Resource Bank (FRB), are conducting trainings and providing food security for more than 750 adults and children in six state-run institutions in the Yerevan, Syunik, Gegharkunik and Kotayk regions. As a result, residents of orphanages, hospitals, and centers for the elderly have improved diets and a better quality of life.
World Food Day is Oct. 16 and United Methodists are encouraged to support programs that help people feed themselves and their families.
On the outskirts of Yerevan, the Republican Special Educational Complex 2, an orphanage that educates 170 teen-aged children who have communication disorders, is benefiting from trainings on farming, livestock management, beekeeping and nutrition. Thanks to an UMCOR-supported food security program facilitated by FRB, adults and children are eating healthier food, obtaining vocational skills and learning valuable life lessons.
“Children’s meals have significantly improved as a result of this program,” said Anahit Gasparyan, nutrition coordinator, UMCOR-Armenia. “They are more nutritious and diverse. The program is also appreciated for the children’s socialization, through the establishment of Youth Clubs. The activities motivate and empower them with additional skills. Working with animals also help to change young people’s attitudes toward their peers and the surrounding nature.”
In-House Food Systems
With UMCOR’s help, institutions in Armenia develop their own in-house food processing systems. They become less dependent on government and humanitarian aid and more focused on meeting the needs of the people they serve.
One of the adjacent buildings to the Education Complex was remodeled into a barn with the help of an UMCOR consultant. The barn provides enough space for donated cattle to move about freely and be fed and washed. UMCOR provided basic training on livestock management, cattle breeding, beekeeping and honey production for orphanage staff. UMCOR and FRB delivered cows and beehives, agriculture and beekeeping tools, and livestock medication to the Education Complex and five other participating institutions.
The kitchen staff learned to create healthy menus for its residents, while adopting cooking methods and food preparation with a focus on nutrition. UMCOR donated the supplies, including thermometers, coagulant and cheese forms, and hired a food specialist to train the staff to make cheese.
With the help of UMCOR Armenia and other non-governmental organizations, children from the Educational Complex, Goris Special School and Gavar Orphanage established youth clubs that engage the children, helping apply what they learn.
The children learn about livestock and the behavior and roles of bees, as well as the history of beekeeping. The youth clubs help students interact with one another in a safe and friendly environment, while improving their communication and team building skills.
Youth and adults throughout Armenia enjoy a diverse diet that includes milk, yogurt, cheese, and other nutritious foods. More importantly, they now have the capacity to make their own food.
Foods Resource Bank
Foods Resource Bank is an ecumenical organization that helps vulnerable people feed themselves and their families. FRB is neither emergency aid nor disaster relief but a humanitarian food security program for the most vulnerable. Sixteen denominations, including the United Methodist Church, participate.
UMCOR opened its Armenia office in Yerevan in 1994. Initially, UMCOR's work in Armenia focused on distributing pharmaceuticals to health institutions and clinics. Later, the programs expanded to include development activities with a focus on micro-credit and transitional programming. In 2008, UMCOR began the FDA-funded Food for Progress program and monetized 6,000 metric tons of USDA-donated soybean meal in Armenia. Other programs include anti-human trafficking, pharmaceutical distribution, HIV/AIDS, income generation and cheese distribution.
How You Can Help
Observe World Food Day, Oct. 16 in your local community or congregation. Support programs like UMCOR’s food security program in Armenia by giving to Armenia Emergency, UMCOR Advance #250225. You can also support UMCOR-SA&D, Advance # 982188, which works to eradicate the root causes of hunger and poverty by leading vulnerable communities into sustained development.
*Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications