Healthy local food for kids in Bethlehem Village

MECA is supporting a fantastic new project in Masara Village just outside of Bethlehem. I just came back from a visit this morning and am so inspired by the women who get up every morning at 5am to make healthy food for the 400 children attending the villages schools and kindergarten. 

In 2008, Fatma Breighiyeh (Um Hasan) became concerned about the food served to children in the village schools. As a farmer, she takes an interest in healthy food and believes it’s important for the children’s physical wellbeing as well as for their future to learn the importance of nutrition and eating fresh, local food. She told me "I have 26 grandkids and I'm doing my best to help raise them well. But we have to take care of all the children." 

She organized a group of women and they took over the village schools' canteen (one kindergarten and two schools) and emptied them out of all the junk food. Um Hasan explained that she and the other women volunteers see this work as a totally political venture- their small contribution to the resistance - ensuring that the children grow up healthy and strong and are not weakened by junk and cheap food.

Each day at 5:30am women from the village gather in the basement kitchen to prepare food such as zaatar pies, meat pies, popcorn, fava beans, fruits, termos, and muffins for children attending the village schools. The children get a healthy snack (and at times a breakfast, since many are living under the poverty line).

Today they made delicious orange muffins, fresh popcorn, termos (similar to fava beans and served with a bit of salt and lemon), and zaatar pies. They also offer yogurt and juice drinks which they sell at cost to the children. The women use only Palestinian products and use organic, fresh vegetables and fruits that Um Hasan grows herself. She even donates the zaatar (wild thyme) which she picks, dries, and grinds before bringing it to the kitchen. 

The women in Ma'sara been doing this for years getting by on donations from here and there. But Um Hasan explained "we have the desire but we need support." For example, their small gas stove is broken and they can't repair it or get a new one so have been getting by with rocks to balance it. 

With MECA's support, the women hope to buy an industrial blender to make juices and smoothies as well as to cover their monthly expenses for flour, milk, gas, cleaning supplies, etc.