This class, and the accompanying trip to Guatemala, was funded by a University MPAC grant. The class and trip provided students with experiences in international development, international business, and nutrition in the specific context of a nutrition transition in the developing world. Such a transition is marked by a significant change in dietary patterns; specifically, we were interested in the trend in developing countries in which people are moving away from a plant-based diet to one high in processed foods, refined sugars, and animal products due to relatively new, though hugely influential, social, economic, and environmental issues plaguing these regions. This transition is causing the rate of chronic diseases to increase in these impoverished areas.
In the weeks preceding the trip, the students were introduced to the issues, the culture, and the academic methods and theories that have thus far been used to address the problems under consideration. On the ground in Guatemala, in addition to our formal class time, the students worked at a girls’ school in Santa Maria where they taught various grades about the dangers of diabetes and its relationship to diet, and where they offered diabetes blood tests to mothers of the girls after giving a similar presentation. They also had the opportunity to work and interact with subsistence coffee farmers working to build their own coffee cooperative and processing plant. And finally, we had the pleasure of speaking with the CEO of EcoFiltro about using community involvement and innovative and sustainable solutions to bring clean water into Guatemalan homes. When we returned home, students presented a paper to the class on an issue that spoke to them, and then offered a plan for a sustainable solution. Some students have taken their projects a step further and are currently drafting proposals to form official MU clubs that will work to help bring attention to the needs of the people of Guatemala.