Thursday, August 13, 2009

Linking Food, Health, and Education in Brazil

In 1975, Brazilian nutritionist and pediatrician Clara Brandão introduced "multimixture" in the diet of 13 preschools in Santarém, in the northern state of Pará, and noted how the malnourished children gained weight and completed their schooling. Some even went on to university.

A drought multiplied the ranks of the malnourished in Santarém, prompting Brandão to study the local culinary customs and to found the Society for Research and Use of the Amazon. With support from other entities, she set up the preschools, for which she created a unique and varied diet, enriched with her special multimixture.

The mix includes bran, seeds, vegetables and crushed eggshell. It is based on the principle that quality is linked to variety and not just to beef, chicken or fish on the dinner plate, Brandão explained to Tierramérica in a recent interview.

"There are no strong or weak foods, only complementary foods," is the slogan of Clara Terko Takaki Brandão, born 67 years ago in the southern state of São Paulo to a family of Japanese immigrants.

Daily dishes can be enriched with natural products that are abundant according to the season, which reinforces local agriculture, and improves human health and the economy of each community, she says.

Brandão has taken her ideas to towns across Brazil. Her plan to fight malnutrition, which has won her several awards, has been extended to all Brazilian states and to more than 15 countries. This month, she visited Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, to share these lessons with schools and restaurants in Garopaba, a beach town on the Atlantic coast.

Read the interview here. Add her to my list of people who ought to be global celebrities.

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