VIDA is a multi-stage campaign to alleviate diet related diseases among the Totonac people and to foster the growth of a new organic produce industry. The program begins with compact, high-yield home gardens and advisory meetings with our nutritional counselors. As participating families begin to grow fruits and vegetables beyond the needs of their immediate communities, our agricultural center in Central Mexico will assist them in networking and improving market linkage with nearby cities, where demand for healthy food is soaring. We believe that the Totonacos, a people who have suffered under the burden of poor diet and who view farming as a venerable, if dying way of life, are in a position to lead Mexico towards better health.
We view the farming traditions of the Totonac region and its tight-knit communities as strengths. Our plan is to restore the ability of local farmers to feed themselves, while introducing modern, sustainable farming practices to increase yields. VIDA home gardens make fresh fruits and vegetables available to the most at-risk groups, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. By growing the program from the kitchen outwards, we are ensuring that the Totonacos continue to benefit from their produce, and the improvements they experience in their own health make for a compelling sales pitch.
The markets for fresh produce have changed dramatically since the days of the coffee subsidies. A strong middle class in Mexico’s cities has raised demand, and Oportunidades, a massive poverty alleviation program that provides cash transfers conditional on purchasing preventative healthcare and improving nutrition, is enabling even the rural poor to eat healthy. Mexico’s national government recognizes the extent of the nutritional crisis and is acting to halt it, but such programs are unwieldy. Private enterprise remains our most efficient agent of change. More needs to be done to stimulate the supply side of fresh produce. VIDA is a relief campaign with a long-term business plan.