Nicaragua: School Meals With A Special Ingredient

Andrea Orozco, nicknamed “Andreíta” by her students, is the one responsible for the lunch time meals at Santa Marta School in the rural community of Guineo, 280 kilometres east of Managua.

Andreíta assumed this position last year when her 5 year old son, Jason, began preschool. Since then she has not once failed to provide daily meals to the 234 students of this primary and preschool.

Cooking like their mothers’ woul

There is a special ingredient that Andreíta adds to each meal: Love. “Many of the students do not receive the necessary three daily meals at their homes. Many have to walk for as long as two hours to get to school and then arrive exhausted and famished. For that reason I pride myself on cooking the food with the same love that their mothers’ provide,” expresses Andreíta.

Her kind and lovable personality has touched many students and teachers. “I love Andreíta very much because she is very nice to us and cooks deliciously,” says 9-year-old   Carmen Masís.

This 41year old mother arrives every day at 6 am to this modest kitchen which is located at the rear of the school and comprises a small organized kitchen area with wooden tables and a dirt floor. Andreíta gathers wood to light a traditional fire which she uses to cook, she washes all the utensils and then fetches water from the communal well  200 metres from the school. While she awaits three other mothers who help her every day, she prepares the rice and beans.

Part of Andreíta’s responsibility is to ensure that not a single child is left unfed. The Integral School Nutrition Programme of the Ministry of Education with the support of the World Food Programme provides rice, beans, vegetable oil, flour and micronutrient fortified cereal, to a million children who are enrolled in preschools and primary schools in the public sector of Nicaragua.

“Everyone loves her”

Andreita comforting a young boyTo the school principal, Humberto Duarte, Andreíta is a noble and generous worker. “She is a simple and responsible woman who cooks for the children with the utmost dedication and enthusiasm. For this reason everyone loves her,” says Duarte.

On the weekends, Andreíta works as a cook in a local canteen which pays her 70 córdobas per day (US$2.80). Her husband Róger Orozco, is a farmer and works on the community’s farms. Their two sons had to drop out of school to work and help them out financially. “My children take care of cattle and make cheese,” explains Andreíta.

Their older daughters have finalized their secondary studies and are now responsible for household duties.
The family does not earn enough money to finance their studies nor the transportation costs to Siuna (35 kilometres away) where the closest university is located. Andreíta’s dream is that her daughters join the professional workforce but for the moment it remains a dream.