Children's, Youth &
Community Center

The Value of Sharing Food


Every school day we prepare, cook and enjoy 60 lunches in our „comedor“. Even though we provide childcare, education and social services, the kitchen and dining room is at the heart of SALEM Ecuador. In fact for the last 50 years a commitment to an organic, whole food vegetarian diet has been the foundation of all SALEM projects worldwide because:

„The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.“

Mauricio and Claudia – owners of “THE FOOD STUDIO” an organic restaurant in Mindo – share many of the same values about growing, cooking and enjoying food as we do. Since December last year they have helped our new cook, Fernanda, plan and create delicious seasonal Vegetarian menus. They were even kind enough to share some of their vegetarian recipes with us such as their delicious falafel recipe.

As lovers and creators of food we asked Claudia to share her first impressions of lunchtime at SALEM. Here’s what she told us:

“As I arrived I watched as a boy arrived, obviously very hungry, very hot and full of emotions after a long day at school. He entered, said ‘hi’, washed his hands, took a plate, went to the kitchen and looked over each dish on offer. That day the starter was cauliflower cream soup which he poured himself.

Then, he walked slowly with his both hand hands holding his bowl of soup towards the table where his friends were. He set down his soup and took a napkin from the basket in the middle of the table, placing the cutlery with precision right next to his plate. He gave thanks for the food and, finally, tasted a bit of soup.

Little by little the table was getting filled with his friends. So many children here every day, all sharing this safe space in Mindo! After the first mouthful of soup, he laughed and said, ‘How delicious! I’m very hungry!!’

As I joined the table I greeted the tutors that were dotted about the tables, who accompany the children. As a guest, I observed this ceremony with curiosity. I used the word ceremony just to give it a name, but it would actually be better to call it a party. Meanwhile, in my head I reflected on the value of lunch, as well as the simple lessons and everyday events that colour your life.

The children finished their soup and, without apparent order, they got up, each washed their plate and served the second course. They all served their food knowing they have to have a balanced meal of carbohydrate accompanied by delicious salads and vegetables.

Nobody complained and I observed carefully as everyone devoured their food and laughed commenting on the day. Little by little I abandoned my thoughts. Yes I know that these are vulnerable children; and yes, I also know that many of them have a complex, hard daily life, but amongst the laughter and jokes, I forgot all about that and joined in to enjoy and appreciate the moment.

This food festival, which takes place from Monday to Friday, always starts on time and continues until the last member of SALEM has arrived and eaten their meal.

When I had finished my meal, I couldn’t help noticing my big smile and feeling of happiness. I said goodbye and walked through the streets of our village, Mindo. That day it had rained and I walked slowly so that I wouldnt get splashed with mud. While walking, I realized that these special moments make the difference between a life of poverty and a life with the opportunity to get ahead and to be able to value these simple things. As always, I look at the future and I hope that everyones life can be filled with such values.

I give thanks for lunch, for those who prepared it and those who enjoyed it. Thank you for the moment where I remembered the great value of simple things, like sharing food together, which we often take for granted. These simple things that we actually learn from the teachings, patience and sensitivity of others. Thank you to those others who accompany us on through our lives.” ~ Claudia Rivera

Thanks to Claudia and Mauricio! “The Food Studio” / IG: @thefoodstudioec

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