[This blog post was sent in by Rachel Page, who graduated from UNC this spring with an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education]
Greetings from the Galapagos! I write this entry from the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador. I am sitting on their lovely terrace, overlooking the beautiful bay beyond Playa Mann. I have been here for one week with my fellow co-investigator, Beth Hopping.
Together we have taken on the task of conducting formative research pertaining to the nutritional status of local Galapageños, particularly mothers and children under five. This project is led by Dr. Peggy Bentley, Professor of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and is funded by the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies.
When I tell people I am doing research in the Galapagos, they always assume that I am studying turtles or sea lions, and while I am a silent observer of their playful aquatic activities, I spend my days studying the health and services of the resident population. There are four main islands that inhabit people on the Galapagos, and among these islands there is an estimated 40,000 people who live and work on the islands. Tourism has given an explosive boom to the residents on the island, and subsequently to the methods in which local services are provided, including health services, education and accessibility to resources, such as healthy foods.
A large industry on the island caters to luxury-based groups of tourists.
In order to meet their clientele’s demands local markets and stores have a vast diversity of available foods, however these foods commonly come from the mainland, and are not provided at affordable costs. Our work here on the island will highlight the current practices among Galapageño households as well as provide insight to some of the essential elements of the food industry and food systems that support the 40,000 residents and the more than 180,000 tourists.