Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests: Native, Nutritious Rainforest Food for School Lunches in Central America

Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests: Native, Nutritious Rainforest Food for School Lunches in Central America

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Chronic child malnutrition in rural Central America is >50%. This has a large negative impact (>30% according to a recent UN study) on national GDP, children's performance in school, resistance to disease, size and overall wellbeing. The Maya Nut is a massive rainforest tree which produces an easy to harvest, native, nutritious and delicious seed which can be easily harvested and processed by rural women to incorporate into the rural school lunch programs, thereby increasing income for rural women and the nutritional quality of school lunches. Maya Nut has been analyzed for nutraceutical potential with very good results, and some researchers are calling it a "superfood". Side effects of this program include improved rainforest conservation and reforestation.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We are the pioneer organization in the world working with Maya Nut. We have trained more than 15,000 women from 1200 rural communities in Peru, Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica to use the market to improve income and health. We are conducting cutting edge research on Maya Nut and have determined that it is free of aflatoxins and ochratoxins, low glycemic index, high in antioxidants, efa's and other phytonutrients.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We teach rural women to harvest and process Maya Nut from native forest for school lunches. We build capacity of rural women to create small businesses to produce and market Maya Nut products, both to schools and other markets. We educate rural children about the food value and environmental benefits of the Maya Nut tree and the importance of rainforests for their wellbeing.
About You
Maya Nut Institute
About You
First Name


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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Maya Nut Institute

Organization Phone
Organization Address
Organization Country

, AN

Country where this project is creating social impact

, AN

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.

We work with Ministries of Education, Forestry, Health and Agriculture to engage rural communities and schools. We have also been working with private food processors in Guatemala and Nicaragua to develop new products, including a Maya Nut-based RUTF (Ready-to-use therapeutic food) for chronically malnourished children.

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

I started working toward this goal in 2001 when i learned about the Maya Nut tree (Brosimum alicastrum) and how nutritious the seed is. from there i have managed to partner with many other individuals and organizations to bring the Maya Nut to the public awareness.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

We have implemented Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests in 150+ schools in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. As a direct result of this program, communities have planted close to 200,000 Maya Nut trees in "food forests" to ensure future program sustainability and economic impacts.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

50 new communities in and around Maya Nut forests in Nicaragua and Guatemala trained to produce Maya Nut for schools and for other local and foreign markets.

Task 1

Raise money for capacity building

Task 2

Train women community members from the 50 communities to sustainably produce Maya Nut from natural forests

Task 3

Facilitate Ministries of Education and Agriculture to purchase Maya Nut from rural women for School Lunches

Identify your 12-month impact milestone

5,000 children eat Maya Nut lunches at least once/week during the school year (2013)

Task 1

Train women/mothers in the participating schools to prepare Maya Nut school lunches. Teach them nutritional content of Maya Nut.

Task 2

Prepare teaching materials

Task 3

Communicate and coordinate with schools, plan timeline and activities with them.

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next three years we expect the participating communities to be serving Maya Nut school lunches in their own schools and to have expanded the Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests Program to at least 500 schools throughout the region.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barriers to date have been supply side; we have not had enough Maya Nut to provide to rural schools. For this reason, we are integrating training in sustainable harvest and processing to teach more communities to produce Maya Nut to ensure supplies. That is the first and most important step, because without supplies it is impossible to convince the Ministries to help with the program.

Tell us about your partnerships

We partner with rural communities, rural women's groups, other NGOs, Government Ministries, Private Enterprises and landowners.

We work hard to ensure that all partners are fully engaged and educated to continue to implement this program after Maya Nut Institute leaves the area.

Explain your selections

We receive grants from foundations and donations from individuals. Regional and National government contributes in-kind services (transportation, staff time, photocopies). Other local and international NGOs contribute cash, personnel, and in-kind (transportation, internet, photocopies) to participate in the program. The level and type of partner participation varies between countries.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We will strengthen the project by strengthening the partnerships among the participating entities. this will facilitate program scale-up and sustainability after Maya Nut Institute leaves the region.

Which barriers to health and well-being does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Other (Specify Below)


Other (Specify Below)


Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Barriers in these communities include lack of access to information about healthy foods and how to obtain them. We tackle this barrier by training children, rural women and moms, school boards and community members about the health benefits of Maya Nut and other nutritious foods that are readily available in the community.

How are you growing the impact of your organization or initiative?
Please select up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We are currently expanding our geographic reach. For the future we plan to add complementary services, including increased research on nutritional content of Maya Nut and dissemination of new information.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Government collaborations have helped with logistics (access to communities). Technology providers have helped with ideas to improve processing techniques. Universities collaborate with research and dissemination of novel information about Maya Nut and its impact on health (glycemic index, antioxidant, nutritional analyses).