Notes from the field: The Nutrition Survey

Here’s the first of some correspondence from Dan Fenyvesi, M.S., R.D. who has been implementing the nutrition survey in the communities near Esteli, as part of establishing some baseline data to measure the impact of the greenhouses.  His notes document the joys and frustrations of putting together a survey with limited resources and challenging logistics, as well as personal views on nutrition.
I am back in Estelli. We did 8 families Saturday and 9 Sunday. Today Kenia came up from Managua and I am sitting with her working on how we are going to analyze the data. Rosario wasn’t able to take notes on her ipad, maybe too much info too fast, those things are not ideal for typing/data entry. So all the more reason to develop a spreadsheet today and figure out how exactly to do this.
The students have been great, they have been doing a lot of the data collection. As long as I have some help I think we collect plenty of data, I am more worried about analyzing it well, hopefully by tonight I will more confident about that. I want to tweak a few questions too, oil (and margarine to a lesser extent) and sugar – I want to know exactly how much they spend on those 2, it seems like a stunning percentage of their diet and a major health issue.
Everyone has been nice and accommodating, meals were good, though my stomach is a bit rocked – I could have gotten a bit of bad water on snack break of something and the buses are bone jarring, but so it goes.
The greenhouse produce is superb the only depressing note was that Rosario’s neighbors were making a tomato jam, so tons of sugar with the tomatoes and that is really sad. I think without education that unfortunately might happen a lot. People don’t think sugar is bad for them and they aren’t accustomed to eating much vegetables (though surely your project is making some progress on that front). I see the bigger picture/objective here is to replace toxic calorie dense foods (oil, sugar, processed foods) with wholesome, low calorie density foods – vegetables, fruits. A tomato jam ruins the point. They kept asking me why I didn’t want it or wouldn’t try it, I was trying to remain neutral or not say anything but eventually I said they are mixing gold with dirt. If they wan’t to process the tomatoes a simple tomato sauce, just cooked tomatoes with salt and perhaps some herbs would be a much healthier option.