Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Choice

During our time in San Jose this past week we had the opportunity to go to the Central Market as a group. Earlier in the day we had a brief lesson on nutrition where we learned how the history of Costa Rica impacts the common diet of residents of the country. For example, how a typical breakfast of Gallo Pinto or lunch of Casado each have up to a thousand calories in order to historically feed agriculture workers who would use a lot of energy in their daily work. Today the average person in Costa Rica needs only about 1500 calories based on the amount of work they do a day. We also learned how individuals living in poverty live on 2$ a day for all expenses. In order to really see in action how difficult it is for people in poverty to live on this low income and eat well and sufficiently we went to the Central Market.

Once there we broke into groups and with only 1000 colones (2$) we set off to buy as much nutritious food as possible for the most calories and the most food groups. In my group we ran through the colorful and crowded marketplace to find produce. We bounced through colorful and loud stalls where vendors called out their wares of fresh fish, flowers, and tourist crafts. Finally stumbling upon a vegetable stand, we bartered with the salesman about the price of two carrots and a banana. A little disgruntled about our excellent bargaining strategy he told us “Not everyone bargains here, you’re lucky you got me”.

We walked along to find our next food group and found a stall selling cheese. I asked the man to cut me as small a piece as possible. He told me it would be 350 colones. I showed him 200 colones, take it or leave it. We left with the cheese. At our next stall it was Abigail’s turn to do the bartering. She handed him 150 colones and in return was handed a sizable bag of lentils for our grain and protein food group. Left with 500 colones, we decided to get an avocado and sweet potato at the same lentil booth. I felt pretty confident with our purchases and tried to not feel regretful as we found our classmates who were armed with eggs and shrimp.

Back at OTS base we presented each of our purchases. We were told that our entire budget had only bought 1400 calories of food. This was the most calories of any other group, but was still not enough! It was discouraging to see how hard it is to find enough food for an individual, much less a family, but it gave us all a good opportunity to see how food security actually works in the real world. Overall, our excursion to the Central Market was my favorite program activity in San Jose.

Marcela Zegarra-Ballon

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