From Farms to Families: JSI Works with Communities to Cultivate Healthier Habits

December 12th, 2023 | story


Two volunteers look over recipe books to share with their communities in Batken, Kyrgyz Republic. Photo by Maxime Fossat.

This is the first part in a two-part series reflecting on the JSI-led USAID Advancing Nutrition project. Click here for part 2.

Nutrition encompasses much more than food. It is bound in the consequences of global events and the contexts of everyday choices. It depends on soil, sun, and systems. Reducing malnutrition, then, requires versatile approaches that draw on multiple sectors while considering specific situations.

For 10 years, JSI led USAID’s flagship nutrition programs Strengthening Partnerships and Results in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) (2013–28) and USAID Advancing Nutrition (2018–2023), using a multi-sectoral approach to design, implement, and evaluate programs tailored to countries’ contexts and priorities.

In this two-part series, JSI experts reflect on their work with USAID Advancing Nutrition to strengthen country-led nutrition programming for improved food and health systems and better health outcomes for all. This first part highlights initiatives to support individuals, families, and communities to make informed decisions and establish healthy habits.

India: Empowering Women Farmers in Assam State

As chief of party for USAID Advancing Nutrition in India, Avinash Upadhyay led the team’s work with government and community partners to provide women farmers in Assam with the knowledge and skills to cultivate not just crops but healthier futures for themselves and their families. The project trained community resource persons as lead trainers, creating a peer-learning model embedded in community structures.

The community trainers worked with women’s self-help groups and families to increase women’s participation in decisions about food and agriculture and connect them to agricultural best practices, inputs, and markets. The government may expand the training model within and beyond Assam state, which will increase local ownership of the intervention.

Avinash has worked in global development for 20 years and in nutrition for the past 10. He has seen how collaboration between government entities and partners has improved and, most importantly, how communities are increasingly involved in developing solutions to challenges they have prioritized.

Honduras: Supporting Families to Make Healthier Choices

Monica Rodriguez, chief of party of USAID Advancing Nutrition in Honduras, and her team worked at the municipal level to strengthen institutional and social structures so people have the information and access they need to make healthy eating choices. The structural environment influences not only people’s daily decisions about their diets but also longer-term choices, including migration, that affect family health and well-being.

Monica, who has worked as a nutritionist for more than 20 years, has seen how working with women to generate their own income and make household decisions can benefit the whole family’s health and well-being. Other family members also have a significant role in their family’s nutrition outcomes, including husbands and mothers-in-law supporting women’s active role in family decision-making and kids bringing home the lessons on healthy habits they’ve learned at school.

Changing behaviors, especially in difficult situations, is never easy and takes at least three years, says Monica. But sometimes, a few simple ingredients can make a big difference in dietary habits.

USAID Advancing Nutrition also trained community-level health care providers and supported an internship program, ensuring continued local support for nutrition interventions and investments.

Kyrgyz Republic: Integrating Nutrition into Early Childhood Development

Under the leadership of Nazgul Abazbekova, USAID Advancing Nutrition in the Kyrgyz Republic worked with the government, local and international organizations, and health care providers to improve the nutritional status of women of reproductive age and children under five. Like many places, the team had to navigate the pandemic response and political events during implementation.

Despite these challenges, Nazgul and her team trained health care providers to promote exclusive breastfeeding and healthier dietary practices. These providers counseled women on making healthy choices for their children and themselves and connected them to health facilities as needed. USAID Advancing Nutrition also worked with health facilities to integrate services like responsive care and early learning into nutrition and child health services, laying the foundation for brighter childhoods.

As in other countries, the USAID Advancing Nutrition Kyrgyz team advocated for more resources and stronger policies to support nutrition interventions and supported coordination between partners from the highest levels of government to those working in communities to plan for and promote better nutrition and food security.

To learn more about the project and find resources, visit

By Shaina Bauman

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