Each day I’m feeling more and more immersed into the Salvadorian culture, from saying “buenas” to complete strangers that I pass on the street, learning the words and singing along to Cumbia tunes on the radio (my fave being Maelo Ruiz – Entregame), to being crazy ecstatic every time I see a delicious plate of pupusas in front of me… Love it!
Food is a huge part of Salvadorian culture especially corn! This by the way is the main ingredient of many traditional dishes such as pupusas, atoll (a warm corn drink), tamales, tortillas and many more.Aside from these traditional dishes El Salvador is very much like most other countries, in that over here they absolutely love sugary foods. But as the saying goes too much of one thing is bad for you! Especially in the case of sugar.
It’s quite normal for children to have black teeth and for young adults to have dentures or what I like to call GANSTER GRILLS, but if they cannot afford this then just missing teeth. In a country that’s so cheerful and where people love to laugh and smile it really is quite a shame.
As a part of our project we the international volunteers hosted an information morning with the national volunteers, to highlight the importance of the vegetable gardens that we’ve built. My role within the group was to organise and present a nutrition activity. It was definitely fun and quite amusing to see such shocked faces, after the members of the community literally saw the amount of sugar they’d typically consume within some of the popular fizzy drinks. However just a few moments later during lunch, the national volunteers sheepishly downed a popular can of ‘juice’ (which is more like a runny syrup I’d put on pancakes) that contained 50% + sugar in a can.
Information morning with the community
This got me thinking of the different reasons for Salvadorians having such bad eating habits seriously affecting their dental hygiene…
1) Chelsea (fellow volunteer) suggested that eating sweets could be a way for struggling parents with a very low income to treat their kids.
2) I have noticed that most of the sweets here contain a variety of artificial food additives, preservatives, flavours and dyes which are not used in England. Also funnily during a night at the cinema I had bought a small tub of ice-cream, which tasted like something I’ve never had before (thumbs down!) So I left it. To my amazement, once the film had ended I took another look at the ice-cream only to see it in an absolutely imperfect condition as if it had never left the freezer, yummy!
3) The final reason that occurred to me was the lack of awareness and education in this area. After chatting to the women and national volunteers, it was a general consensus that they had never read the nutrition label before.
This encouraged me to run a nutrition stall at a health fare event hosted by a national youth club, to raise awareness and the importance of this in a fun and interactive way for kids.
Funnily enough, as I’ve put such emphasis on this area the national volunteers have taken great pleasure in chanting “Mucha azucar!! Mucha Azucar!!” (“A lot of sugar!! A lot of sugar!!”) every single time I’m caught eating a doughnut, ice-cream or biscuits. As annoying as this may seem, it’s a sound that I’ll definitely miss when I return to London because as a group we’ve really bonded and gelled really well with the national volunteers – friendship without boarders.
Now with only a week left on this project I’ve come to the realisation that the most important thing is to raise awareness and if like the national volunteers after reading the label, the choice is to go ahead with the sugar invested drink, maybe the achievement is that they have the ability to read the label and that they are conscious of what they consume good or bad and therefore they are given the choice.
Blog by: Ayoolu Nuga
Photo: Cooking workshop- Ayoolo telling Yensis that she is secretly a pupusa chief… Yensis doesn’t seem convinced.