Filling 40,000 Tummies a Year, Part 2

Old Preparation

The Tenderfeet kitchen has improved a lot since when this picture was taken (in 2007). Here Mama Margaret and Teacher Karen get breakfast ready

In a previous article, we explained that Tenderfeet fills 40,000 tummies a year! In that article, we described the arduous process of acquiring the nutritious ingredients for all those meals.

In this follow-up, we look at how the food is currently prepared (and was prepared in the past) at the school.

It’s important to note up front that our feeding progrm has really expanded and improved over the years. In the early days of Tenderfeet, when funds were low, the Tenderfeet team often had to get by with smaller meals with lower-quality ingredients.

For instance, for over a year, a certain local religious charity donated the grains used in cooking.  They were probably getting the supplies at a discount, likely from the stock suppliers couldn’t sell.

As much as she appreciated it, Mama Margaret said that often the meals prepared from these grains didn’t turn out very well.

Thanks to a more realistic budget and great sponsors, we have been able to purchase the fresh and tasty ingredients described in the first article.

The facilities and equipment for cooking have also improved dramatically. In the past, for instance, Tenderfeet had to rely on one or two small charcoal cookers.

These kinds of cookers are very smokey, inconvenient, and obviously have limited capacity, seriously cutting down on the amount that can be cooked at one time. Bending over such a cooker for hours is a tedious and back-breaking job indeed.

Fortunately, the Collette Foundation came to the rescue a few years ago and sponsored a large stove able to cook large amounts of food at a time. One of the other benefits of the stove is that the exhaust pipe funnels all the smoke outside.

Old and new stove

Teacher Elizabeth (left) cooking on a small charcoal stove in the old days, while Mary (one of our main cooks shown on the right) is cooking on the current and much-improved stove

Another huge upgrade was the installation of a sink with running water, sponsored by Children of Light. Fed by an outside tank, the sink has been a big boost in convenience as well as improving the food safety as compared to carrying water and washing in tubs.

New Sink

The new sink with running water. On the left, you can see the tank that feeds the sink being installed, while Mary uses it on the right

We’ve also been blessed by volunteers who help with the cooking tasks. We’ve never had the budget to pay our cooks, relying entirely on volunteers.

Often we have mothers, aunts, and grandmothers have to help with the cooking duties. One of the drawbacks of relying on volunteers is that they can sometimes be … well … not so reliable.

Children eating

Tenderfeet children enjoy a delicious meal

Fortunately, Tenderfeet has had two mainstays that are pillars of dedication. They are Mary (mother of Boaz) and Sandra (Margaret’s oldest daughter).  These two women keep the school’s feeding program on track.

Everytime I visit Tenderfeet, I always make sure to try out the student meals as often as possible. This gives me a chance to understand what the students are eating, and report back to donors that the school is doing a good job feeding the kids well.

Please note that even the teachers eat the same meals as the students; Margaret insists that it would not be right for the teachers to have anything different than the students.  This helps ensure a high level of quality control.

The good news is that the meals are wonderful, so everybody wins!

Even if it’s a relatively simple plate of rice and beans, there are almost always additional vegetables included to enhance the taste and nutrition level, such as cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and greens.

The staff also season the dishes perfectly — such as with a hint of garlic — making for a truly delicious meal that would be enthusiastically enjoyed at any cafeteria in the world!

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