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)
Learn more about our Family Health and Food Security Program
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
In order to support food security, communities must also have adequate knowledge of nutrition, clean water, and sufficient sanitation services. This goal for humanity seems distant. Malnutrition is the leading health issue for children worldwide, and more than ½ of the 9.7 million child-deaths each year are linked to malnutrition. When poor nutrition weakens the immune system, childhood diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory ailments can become deadly. Moreover, chronically malnourished children, particularly those affected by the widespread prevalence of anemia, will be unable to concentrate in school.
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.
Ecology is the relationship of living things to each other and to what’s around them. The root of the word “ecology” from Greek means “study of the household”. It is the study of the “household” of living things and how we all interact with each other. In our urban world, where 50% of the human population now lives in cities according to reports form the Millenium Goals., we have become removed from a clear relationship with our physical environment and even further distanced from the natural world.
Urban populations benefit from expanded awareness about their physical environment. Urban communities can reduce their impact on the earth with efficient housing, mass-transit, and shared energy systems. The fastest growing urban areas, however, are unfortunately the sprawling slums of nations whose agricultural regions can no longer support growing populations.
Sustainable Agriculture calls for an integrated system that incorporates environmental health, economic viability, and social equity. This system includes the natural world, the local ecosystem, the farmer, the transporter, the processor and the consumer. It entails the stewardship of both natural and human resources with the focus of “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.
As our world becomes more and more urban, our connection with our food source is more remote. Small realistic steps can be made even in urban areas to steward humanity toward a more sustainable food system.
Via is working throughout the San Diego-Tijuana region to support and promote the development and use of personal and community gardens as a way to both connect people to their environment and provide underserved communities with access to affordable and healthy locally grown produce.
Nutrition and Ecology Education – Via continues to work with our sister organization in Mexico, Los Niños de Baja California, to provide nutrition and ecology education to women and families in low-income areas on the outskirts of Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico. The ecology component of this program is specifically geared towards organic gardening, composting and recycling and supports the development of personal and community gardens. Through this program, 10,000 gardens were planted at schools and in communities throughout underserved areas of the city in 2015.
Via supports a grassroots collective of artists and residents in the Logan Heights area of San Diego, that are working to develop a thriving community garden and meeting place for kids and families. Via brings needed labor and resources to the project through our Volunteers program and provides fiscal sponsorship to the collective to acquire additional resources.