Nutrition for Oti’s Family

By Erick and Julie Mowery, Back2Back Cancun Staff

We’ve been thinking a lot about nutrition lately and how much the foods we eat affect our health, how we feel, and even how we think. As Americans, nutrition and healthy eating habits are often discussed and sometimes we make significant diet changes to combat or prevent sickness and other negative effects. Changing our diet a little or a lot, while not easy, is very feasible.

Recently, I was holding Rodrigo, the two year old son of Oti who is a widow we serve in Cancun, during one of our Vacation Bible Schools. Rodrigo is a happy boy, but we couldn’t help but notice his rotting teeth. When we offered him a piece of fruit he said no. But as soon as the birthday cake came out, he was all over it.

We know that a good diet is important and we have spoken to Oti and all eight of her children about eating less sugar (Coke, cookies, candy, and juice) and eating more fruits and vegetables. But as we ate our cake, it occurred to us that Oti has lived in survival mode at least since we’ve known her, and she doesn’t think of food as anything more than something to fill the belly. How it affects her long-term health and that of her children is the furthest thing from her mind.

At Back2Back, it is one of our goals to help educate the people we serve about healthy habits. So we had the idea to take twenty fruits and veggies to Oti’s house to have our first nutrition lesson with her family. We asked her and the kids some basic questions about fruits and veggies. “What is your favorite fruit/veggie?” “What are some red and green fruits/veggies?” Then we asked the kids to separate the fruits from the veggies. While the lesson was fun for them, it was eye-opening for us to see how limited their “food vocabulary” was. Oti had never had eggplant or knew how to cook spinach or some of the other veggies.

Although our first nutrition lesson was both fun and sad at the same time, we definitely knew where we could invest our time in future lessons. Next up…cooking classes with Oti. BUT, teaching her how to make new recipes with new foods will be a challenge because she can’t read. It’s not as easy as giving her a recipe, which might explain why she sticks with the same food choices. So we’ll have to be creative with the cooking class. Any ideas are welcome, especially with picture recipes. Email your ideas to