Lunches for Learning has always maintained a laser focus on providing lunches in school - because that's what keeps kids in school and helps them complete their education. However, we have encouraged many of our school sponsors to visit Honduras with us on Day-in-the-Life Trips and Graduation Trips. These trips have always been designed to introduce current sponsors to the schools they assist and experience first-hand the very real impact of our mission which is made possible by their financial support.
Because the needs are so numerous in this region of Honduras, our sponsors - along with input from community leaders in the Valle Department - often identify additional needs at their sponsored schools above-and-beyond the lunch program. We often receive questions about the types of projects which Lunches for Learning endorses - and the types we tend to discourage.
Provided that the lunch program at any L4L-sponsored school is fully-funded, most projects which directly improve lunch program delivery or the learning process in school are encouraged by L4L. This includes kitchen construction, latrine construction, roof repair or replacement, and textbooks or other learning materials which benefit the entire school:
Why are there projects which L4L discourages?
- Without an on-site kitchen, the mothers of the community must prepare meals at their homes and then carry the cooked food - sometimes a 45-minute walk or more - to the kids at the school.
- In the absence of indoor plumbing at these schools, the kids and teachers receiving lunches deserve to have latrines which improve sanitary conditions and provide a sense of basic dignity. The latrine pictured here was provided in 2019 by Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Madison, Alabama for the students and teachers at their sponsored school.
- Damaged or missing roofs make it impossible for kids to be in school during the rainy season, which also hinders their ability to receive the daily school lunch provided by our sponsors and donors.
- Textbooks and other basic learning tools are a rare luxury in many of these remote, rural, public schools in Honduras. These important learning tools are simply not provided in any consistent fashion by the Honduran Education Ministry.
The L4L school lunch program is empowering the kids of rural Honduras to learn their way to a better life. It's bringing a new sense of hope to these remote, rural, nearly forgotten communities. Any initiatives which can be perceived as providing handouts - or have the potential to create dependency, or ignore the innate skills and abilities in these proud Honduran communities - run the risk of creating resentment among the very families with whom we are building a long-term partnership.
How does L4L suggest we balance the challenges identified in any of these deserving Honduran communities?
The answers to a few basic questions can quickly help us determine whether any suggested project would either empower the community, or potentially do more harm than good:
The L4L school lunch program is literally changing the trajectory of the lives of kids who would likely otherwise be dropping-out of school to search for food on a daily basis. We simply want to make sure that we are constantly maintaining our focus on this life-changing school lunch program - while at the same time allowing our sponsors and donors to grow their relationships with their sponsored school communities by considering additional initiatives which directly benefit the lunch program and the school learning experience.
- Has the community in question been consulted so that they have the opportunity to help identify what their school's needs are? Or are we assuming that we know best what their needs are?
- If a tangible, brick-and-mortar project is suggested, are we hiring local tradesmen to coordinate much of the work effort - allowing them to use their skills and expertise to better their own community while they also earn pay to help them earn a living and support their own families?
- Is any project under consideration intended to benefit all children in the school equally?
If you would like to learn more about how you as an individual, your family, your church or your organization could expand your impact in Honduras by meeting some of these additional needs at L4L-sponsored schools, contact Phil to discuss this further.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are schools selected to be included in the L4L program?
We are constantly on the lookout for rural Honduran schools with a clear need for the L4L program. We use a four-step plan to determine whether a school will be invited to join the program:
When a school is selected to be invited into the program, we schedule a meeting with the entire school community. At this initial meeting, L4L explains that the partnership requires full community involvement. Students are required to be in school to receive lunches. Mothers are expected to participate by preparing and serving lunches in a rotation every school day, and Principals are required to secure the food supply, manage the parent cooking rotations and provide L4L with reports each month detailing how many meals were served each day of the month. If the full community agrees to these expectations, then that school joins the L4L program, and the kids' lives, health, and education immediately begin to improve.
- We interview the mayor of each municipality to ask where the need is greatest.
- We interview principals in schools we currently serve for their input on where the need exists.
- We meet with administrators in the Honduran Education Ministry for their input.
- We do a discreet drive-by to visually verify the level of poverty in any school community being considered.
What is included in an L4L school lunch?
Each lunch includes dehydrated components which are re-constituted over a fire as lunch is prepared by a team of mothers each school day. Ingredients include rice, beans, corn (for making tortillas), powdered milk, and a chewable multivitamin. We also provide cooking oil, and sugar (for flavoring). We deliver a one month's supply of food to each school each month. Ingredients are delivered in dehydrated form because the schools lack electricity for any form of refrigeration. Most children tell us that their favorite part of the lunch is the glass of milk because it's something their families are simply unable to provide. In other words, milk is a rare treat for them, and L4L provides it daily. The daily multivitamin provides the kids with vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, iron, niacin, and folic acid.
How does L4L acquire the food for the school lunches?
All of the food we provide as part of the school lunches is purchased in Honduras, which means we are contributing to the Honduran economy as we help the kids continue their education. The rice, beans, corn and sugar are purchased in the town of Nacaome where our operations are based - in the Valle Department which borders El Salvador to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The powdered milk and cooking oil are purchased in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, which is approximately 90 miles north of Nacaome. The daily multivitamin is the only component which is purchased in the US. We purchase vitamins through non-profit partner Blessings International, based in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
How do the families feed their kids when school is not in session - like weekends and during the months of December and January?
This is one of the most common questions we receive. The Honduran school year runs from February through November. If the kids have nothing to eat in their homes, and the only meal they receive on any given day is the L4L school lunch, what do they do when school is not in session? The fact of the matter is that having a reliable, nutritious lunch at school each day is keeping these kids in school. Otherwise many of them would drop out of school to search for food each day for the sake of survival. School doesn't meet on weekends, or during December and January between academic years, but having daily school lunches at school from February through November each year removes an enormous burden from the shoulders of these kids' parents. For those 200 days each year, their kids are well-fed, healthy, and learning That means that the parents are able to focus their meager resources on providing food for their kids only during the times when school is not in session.
If L4L were to begin providing lunches outside of our well-established school-day model, we would have crossed a line into providing handouts. If we handout boxes of food to the kids to take home, what would be their motivation to attend school? What is the guarantee that the kids themselves would receive any of the food once it gets home to the family? Our long-term goal is much loftier than simply providing food ... but rather to break this multi-generational cycle of poverty in rural Honduras through education. By providing lunches at school, we guarantee that the kids benefit directly from the nutrition ... and we also ensure that the kids actually remain in school and have the opportunity to ultimately graduate and enter the Honduran workforce as literate individuals.
How did L4L end-up in this particular region of Honduras?
As our Founder, Ron Hicks was preparing for retirement in 2004, he made a motorcycle trip through Latin America. He left his home in Montgomery, Alabama, shipped his Moto Guzzi motorcycle to Brownsville, Texas, and began his journey there ... a journey that would take him through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. As he was passing through a border checkpoint between El Salvador and Honduras, he was approached by a dirty young girl whom he later learned was named Anabel (pronounced "Annabelle"). Neither spoke the other's language, so Anabel reached out her hand asking for spare change. Ron gave her a few coins, then watched her immediately use those few coins to purchase food from a street vendor. He later learned that over 70% of families in rural southern Honduras lived in abject poverty and that kids routinely dropped out of school at very young ages because they were desperate to find food to survive each day. This desperation had created a multi-generational cycle of poverty with no end in sight. The plight of these Honduran children touched Ron's heart, and his determination led him to create Lunches for Learning right there in the Valle Department of Honduras ... the place where Anabel impacted his life simply by reaching out to him with an empty hand and an empty stomach.
Do you have a question which wasn't asked-and-answered here? Email us to submit your question.