With identical shy smiles, María José and María Fernanda lead us through La Cruz, the municipal trash dump of Estelí, Nicaragua. These twin girls appear younger than nine years old, yet at the same time, they show resilience beyond their years. We reach their house, which, like its neighbors, is cobbled together from scrap metal, boards, and plastic bags.

To visit La Cruz is to witness life in extreme poverty. Families survive on a dollar or two a day earned by collecting recyclables in the dump, leaving little to pay for a full meal, let alone school supplies for their children.

But for María Fernanda and María José, there is hope for a better future: hope through education and nutrition.

That’s where Fabretto comes in. In 2010, Fabretto saw the great need in La Cruz and began to serve lunches to local children on a makeshift picnic table. Through a partnership with non-profit buildOn, Fabretto constructed a school in La Cruz in 2011. Since then, children from La Cruz have had access to primary education—most had never gone to school before—and daily school meals. Many Fabretto service groups have donated time and resources to La Cruz, and today the school is outfitted with a kitchen, garden, small swing set, and a well.

When we spoke with the twins and their mother, Antonia, it was clear that school lunch is essential for their success. Malnourishment causes students to learn at a slower pace and struggle to remember what they’ve learned. School lunch helps the girls focus on learning instead of on their next meal. Antonia says that she has seen the change. “The twins have improved a lot now that they’re eating more,” she tells us proudly. “They can read now.”

A typical Fabretto school lunch includes fortified rice and soy, beans, tortilla, juice, and sometimes meat or dairy products, plus fruits and vegetables grown by the community in the school’s garden. Antonia is one of the many mothers who cook lunch each day; their labor is completely voluntary. Antonia explains, “Fabretto school lunches offer my daughters a variety and quantity of food that otherwise they would not have.”

Antonia and her daughters have witnessed the power of school lunch, and for the twins, education and nutrition is their path to a better tomorrow.