food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

food safety in el salvadorThe ability to have access to safe and nutritious food is essential to maintaining life and good health. Unsafe food contains harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria that can lead to more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to forms of cancer. Approximately 600 million people become ill after consuming contaminated food each year, which results in 420,000 deaths and the loss of thirty-three million healthy life hours. Food safety and nutrition are linked to cycles of health. Unsafe food causes disease and malnutrition, especially with at-risk groups.

Education on Food Safety in El Salvador

Women in El Salvador are participating in an educational program supported by the World Health Organization that teaches safe hygiene practices and food safety. The WHO works in collaboration with El Salvador’s government and other United Nations partner organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, UNWomen, and the World Food Program (WFP). The program aims to address foodborne illnesses and poor nutrition by educating local women who then pass on their knowledge to other women in the community.

In preparation for the village workshops, there are two ‘train the trainers’ workshops held to train health promoters who can then go on to educate women in other villages. The women teach others how to host their own educational workshops. Women are chosen as leaders since they play a vital role in food preparation and safety.

Teaching Subsistence Farming

In El Salvador 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 U.S. a day, which makes it hard to buy food.  A large sector of the population lacks the proper education about nutrition needed to grow food themselves. This program provides women with education about farming, specifically focusing on five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables.

  1. Practice good personal hygiene. Good hygiene begins in the home with a clean body, face, and clothes. People must maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of pathogens and prevent food contamination. A toilet or latrine must be used for proper sanitation.
  2. Protect fields from animal fecal contamination. In areas where animals live in close proximity to humans and fields, it is imperative to control the risk of exposure to fecal matter. Exposure to animal feces is correlated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction and growth faltering.
  3. Use treated fecal waste. Waste may be reused as a fertilizer for agriculture, gardening or horticultural, but must be safely handled, treated, stored and utilized.
  4. Evaluate and manage risks from irrigation water. Be aware of all risks of microbial contamination at all water sources and protect water from fecal matter.
  5. Keep harvest and storage equipment clean and dry. Wash harvest equipment with clean water and store away from animals and children. Remove all visible dirt and debris from all products.

Results

After participating in the program, the women involved began to change their lifestyles and safety habits. Women use mesh to protect fields from contamination from animals and can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while practicing food safety. Foodborne illnesses decreased in households where safety measures were practiced. Families that utilized the five keys at home reduced their chances of getting diarrhea by 60% compared to families in communities where these hygiene and safety measures were not applied. Families that began to practice food safety also had a more diversified crop production that contributes to improved nutrition.

 

Many people in El Salvador live on less than $2 U.S. a day and education on nutrition needed to grow food independently is sometimes lacking. In order to address these issues, The WHO, and other organizations, partnered with El Salvador’s government to host workshops on food safety and hygiene practices. While food safety remains an important issue in El Salvador, the workshops positively impacted food safety in the country by decreasing foodborne illnesses in households that applied the safety measures.

– Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

 

Microparticles That Could Alleviate Global Malnutrition
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is the most common consequence of poor nutrition worldwide. Every year, 2 million children die globally from malnutrition. Efforts to refortify foods date back to the early 20th century, but the technology to stabilize those nutrients in different foods has progressed slowly. In a breakthrough method of encapsulating micronutrients, researchers at MIT have discovered a way to refortify common foods by using biocompatible polymers that have shown in efficacy trials to prevent degradation while being stored or cooked. The new method would allow for better nutrient delivery and absorption. If there were microparticles that could alleviate global malnutrition, such a development, if scaled up, could provide many developing countries with more nutritious food and prevent malnutrition-related diseases that primarily affect children and pregnant women.

Micronutrient Malnutrition

Malnutrition primarily affects those living in developing countries and the malnourished often represent 30 percent of their population. Malnutrition presents itself in a variety of ways, but most notably through anemia, cognitive impairments and blindness. Roughly 2 billion people live in low-resource areas where infectious diseases compound the effects of malnutrition. The lack of micronutrients is a quiet and prolonged killer and can cause premature death and loss of economic activity. There is also a direct correlation between those with the least education and most iron-deficient in these countries.

WHO has worked to tackle the causes of malnutrition using solutions such as promoting dietary diversification with enhanced iron absorption and supplementation, noting that solutions must meet the local population needs. Since many of these communities lack more than one vital micronutrient, efforts to supplement the diet can address multiple deficiencies, such as lack of folate, vitamins A and B12. Part of their plan includes programs that aim to eradicate infectious diseases that contribute to anemia, including schistosomiasis, hookworm, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Doing so would help end the cycle of poverty that many communities face due to disease and malnutrition.

Microparticles That Could Alleviate Global Malnutrition

The lead authors of the MIT study are Aaron Anselmo and Xian Xu, as well as graduate student Simone Buerkli from ETH Zurich. In the study, they claim to have developed a new way of refortifying foods using a biocompatible polymer microparticle. What is most notable about this new technology for supplementing foods is that the encapsulated micronutrients will not degrade during cooking or storage. Researchers selected the polymer BMC out of the 50 different polymers they tested, after trying them on laboratory rats and later on women. The same polymer is already classified in the United States as a dietary supplement safe for consumption. The next step for the researchers is to advance clinical trials in developing countries with local participants.

The researchers were able to encapsulate 11 different micronutrients using polymer BMC, such as vitamins A, C, B2, zinc, niacin, biotin and iron. They were able to successfully encapsulate combinations of up to four micronutrients at a time. Even after boiling encapsulated micronutrients for hours in a lab, they remained unharmed. Researchers also found that the new microparticles remained stable after experiencing exposure to oxidizing chemicals in fruits and vegetables as well as ultraviolet light. The polymers become soluble in acidic conditions (such as the stomach) and the micronutrients released. An initial trial did not yield a high absorption rate, so researchers boosted the iron sulfate from 3 to 18 percent and were successfully able to achieve high absorption rates, which was on par with typical iron sulfate. This trial added encapsulate iron to flour and used it to bake bread.

History and Limitations of Food Fortification

In its Guidelines on Food Fortification with Micronutrients in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the WHO noted that the most common deficiencies were in iodine, vitamin A and iron, representing 0.8 million deaths annually. Developed nations typically do not experience these levels of malnutrition because they have access to a variety of foods that are rich in micronutrients, such as meat and dairy products. Underdeveloped countries consume mostly monocultures of cereals, tubers and roots. Prior to the 1980s, developed countries focused their efforts on protein-energy malnutrition. While protein-based foods did help to improve nutrition, it was the addition of iodine to foods in the 1990s that helped prevent degenerative characteristics such as brain damage and mental retardation in childhood.

To combat micronutrient malnutrition, WHO promotes greater access to a variety of quality foods for all affected groups. In addition to a more diverse diet, they strategize to create policies and programs with governments and organizations to educate the public on good nutrition, diversify food production and deliverability, implement measures to guarantee food safety and provide supplementation. Having the support of the food industry has been essential since the beginning of the 20th century to include these guidelines in their production of food. Salt iodization in the 1920s expanded from developed countries to nearly the entire world. However, a number of challenges have remained for the refortification of foods.

For example, early on in the fight against malnutrition, a lack of quality evaluation programs on the efficacy of food refortification left nutritionists wondering if the empirical improvements for certain populations were due to supplementation or a combination of socioeconomic facts and public health improvements. Analyzing the data with a comprehensive efficacy trial became the norm in an effort to better gauge the efficacy of their efforts. Other issues remain such as interactions of nutrients, the stability of polymers, correct levels of nutrients, physical properties of ingredients and how well customers receive the food. For instance, in large amounts, calcium inhibits iron absorption while vitamin C has the opposite effect in refortified foods.

Implications of the Study

The MIT study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, modeled its research on the success of refortifying food with iodized salt from the past, incorporating micronutrients into a diet that would not require people to change their consumption habits. According to researchers, the next phase will be to replicate the study in a developing country with malnutrition to see if the microparticles can feasibly enter residents’ diets. They are seeking approval from the WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. If successful, they will scale up manufacturing of the nutrient additive in the form of a powdered micronutrient.

The initiative could lead to a significant decline in global cases of nutrient deficiencies thereby reducing the effects of anaemia and other preventable diseases due to a poor immune system. By no means would it represent the first technological advance in refortifying foods and increasing access to nutrition, but the addition of microparticles that could alleviate global malnutrition may help many developing nations end a cycle of poverty that disease has perpetuated for generations, increasing their health and productivity in the process.

– Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

Durian Fruit Will Transform ElectricityAround the world, millions rise with sunlight and go to bed with the moonlight, not because of preference, but because of lack of choice. In 2016, 13 percent of people around the world did not have electricity. Lack of electricity hampers the development of impoverished nations around the world. Developed nations’ sustainability relies on electricity. According to the World Bank, lack of electricity hampers developments in healthcare, education, gender equality and occupations. However, many third world nations may not see electricity in their neighborhoods for many years to come. With approximately 940 million people living without electricity, a significant gap has developed between the haves and the have-nots. Upon observation of the gap, it was important for scientists to figure out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere.

What Is Durian?

Durian is a valued fruit native to tropical regions around the world, but most commonly found in Southern Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Durian is most widely known as the smelliest fruit in the world, but it is also very nutritious. In fact, in many countries, different places have restrictions on where this fruit can and cannot go. Many South Asian cultures value durian fruit, but have no need of the skin; it is simply thrown away. Excitingly, experts figured out how durian fruit will transform electricity everywhere. Scientists discovered that durian fruit’s surface is transformable into something called aerogels—a part commonly used inside batteries.

According to Sydney University, the method is entirely non-toxic. The aerogels can replace parts of a standard phone battery. They perform much more efficiently than modern-day batteries do. While this non-toxic method will allow smartphones to charge at astonishing rates more consistently, it also opens up possibilities to provide impoverished communities with low-cost electricity initiatives.

This method differs from any others because of its convenience. Communities that value durian are already throwing out the skin. This means there is a cost-effective way to provide materials and a non-toxic manner of production, resulting in low-cost access to energy.

Benefits Of Electricity

With electricity, communities develop communication services. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this allows people to build their quality of living rapidly. If there is a lack of supplies or an important governmental initiative, communication services allow for this information and materials to be accessed much quicker than traditional methods. Along with communication services, electricity allows people to preserve goods for longer.

With the ability to produce low-cost energy, impoverished communities are more capable of accessing electricity into their daily lives. The implementation of electricity into underprivileged communities allows them to develop their quality of life.The durian may be the key to cheaper and more readily available electricity. This could provide people in developing countries with lower-cost electricity for everyday items. With objects such as refrigerators and freezers, underprivileged people can stock up on food, thus helping to diminish high rates of starvation. Furthermore, cleaner forms of electricity can provide light, heat and easier cooking.

– Cleveland Lewis

Photo: Unsplash

Clean Cooking Technology
Wood-based cooking harms the health of humans and the environment. KopaGas is one of many social enterprises tackling this problem by transitioning Tanzanian families to a clean cooking technology that is gas-based rather than wood-based through an innovative pay-as-you-go business model.

Imagine that a family is cooking dinner in the kitchen. They put charcoal into the stove and water for stew begins to boil. As the water heats, thick, grey smoke from the stove fills the room, the family’s lungs and the surrounding forest. In Tanzania, 96 percent of the population still uses dirty fuel sources like charcoal and firewood for cooking purposes. This has a harmful impact on respiratory health and the country’s ecology.

Effects of Wood-Based Cooking

Cooking with charcoal and firewood is comparable to exposing oneself to the smoke of 400 cigarettes per hour. Such air contamination contributes to roughly 4.3 million deaths per year worldwide. In Tanzania, respiratory infections are the second leading cause of death after malaria. In addition to devastating health effects, the resulting smoke causes ecological damage, particularly deforestation. A shocking 55 percent of the global wood harvest, representing 9 percent of primary energy supply, stems from traditional woodfuels.

To add to this, most wood-burning stoves are inefficient. Around 85 to 90 percent of the energy content of wood that people use for cooking becomes lost through the process of combustion. Such inefficiency means that people need to cut down more trees to satisfy the demand for woodfuel.

KopaGas as a Solution

Scientists Sebastian Rodriguez-Sanchez and Andron Mendes sought to address these health and environmental challenges head-on by creating clean cooking technology. In 2015, Rodriguez-Sanchez and Mendes co-founded KopaGas. The enterprise uses proprietary technology to help Tanzanian families transition to gas-based cooking.

Households pay an upfront fee of $6.50 to receive a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cooking kit. Families pay for the gas through a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model via mobile phone payment. A smart meter that attaches to the LPG cooking kit measures gas consumption feeding back into the mobile application. Transparent information allows families to understand consumption patterns which can help return control over personal finances.

KopaGas’ innovation is revolutionary not because it utilizes clean cooking methods, but rather because it makes gas-cooking affordable through the PAYG system. Rodriguez-Sanchez told Reuters that the PAYG model needs to prove itself at a large scale to attract greater levels of investment. However, KopaGas is already gaining early financial support from the Acumen Fund, HRSV, Saisan Co. and DEG / KFW.

In January 2020, the U.K.-based holding company, Circle Gas Limited, acquired KopaGas’ PAYG technology. The company aims to expand access to technology across Sub-Saharan Africa, where 900 million people have yet to transition to modern and clean cooking fuels. Further expansion will then move into East Africa where the focus of 2020 is in Kenya.

Innovating Clean Cooking

While KopaGas is attempting to transition households from woodfuel-based cooking to gas-cooking, others are taking completely different approaches. One example is ServedOnSalt that emerged in collaboration with the DTU Skylab_FoodLab, a Food System Change laboratory that Roberto Flore founded and leads. The ServedOnSalt project developed a battery using solar energy, salt and water to create a cheap and clean-powered cooking stove. KopaGas,  ServedOnSalt and other social enterprises within the clean cooking technology space are fundamentally transforming cooking practices in developing areas. These innovations are improving the health of humans and the planet.

– Kate McGinn
Photo: Flickr

Martinique's Pesticide Poisoning
From 1972 to 1993, Martinique used the pesticide chlordecone in banana plantations to eliminate the weevil, a type of beetle that was infesting the lands. Mainland France banned the use of this extremely toxic pesticide. However, the French government still authorized its use in the French West islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The chemical contaminated over 20,000 hectares of land between both islands. The world finally banned chlordecone production in 2009. However, it was too late to reverse the health damages Martinique’s pesticide poisoning left on the people of Martinique and the environment.

For almost five decades, the people of this island have been dealing with serious public health issues that chlordecone caused. Some of the issues include prostate cancer, nervous system disorders, high rates of premature births and exposure through breast milk. There is no viable decontamination method. In addition, traces of the pesticide will likely remain in the soil for at least 700 years. Martinique’s pesticide poisoning will come under control once the French government provides the funding for research that will allow a deeper understanding of the situation.

The People of Martinique

Ninety-two percent of the citizens on this island have tested positive for chlordecone poisoning. Contamination has reached the water and food supply, livestock and even marine life. This slow poisoning has caused many mothers to have premature babies. As a result, premature births are four times higher than the national average in Martinique. The contamination also affects the island’s men. Martinique has one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world with 577 new cases reported in 2018.

The pesticide is also affecting the children of Martinique. Nineteen percent of children tested for chlordecone exceeded the toxic dose. Contaminated and breastfeeding mothers are unintentionally poisoning their children through their milk. As the kids grow older, dietary exposure to chlordecone continues. This will increase their chances of developing cancer later on in life.

The Economy of Martinique

Because chlordecone poisoning has reached the waters surrounding Martinique, fishermen are having trouble staying in business. Thirty-three percent of coastal waters surrounding the island has a ban on fishing to prevent more citizens from eating poisoned food. Although this ban has kept the citizens safe, many families who rely on fishing to make a living are now struggling financially. The French government is providing some aid to these families. However, reports indicate that only 50 out of 506 fishermen received any aid. Depression and suicide are common within the fishing communities in Martinique.

Chemical contamination is also hurting the island’s exports. Martinique can no longer export much of the foods grown on the island to mainland France due to its lack of safety. This has not only hurt the economy but has also caused an uproar and a call for justice for the people of Martinique. France has banned the contaminated food. However, many in Martinique only have contaminated food. Many of the island’s citizens find this unfair. People started protests and campaigns in an attempt to get the attention of the French government. In September 2019, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, made a pledge to increase the budget for food controls of contaminated lands.

The Solutions for Martinique’s Pesticide Poisoning

Despite the lack of action by the French government, the farmers of Martinique have started to search for alternative solutions. Many of them are starting to grow their crops above land by using trees. Chlordecone is unable to travel through tree trunks which means that any crop that grows through trees will be chlordecone free. Lab testing has confirmed the lack of the toxic chemical in their crops. They are able to provide the people of Martinique with safe foods.

Along with growing food above land, farmers have started using alternative substances such as aldicarb, isophenphos, phenamiphos, cadusaphos and terbuphos which has stopped further spread of the toxic pesticide.

Despite these solutions, one of the biggest ways that the French government can help the people of Martinique is by providing the funding for research that will help them better understand chlordecone’s movement through the soil and water. Without this research, providing successful solutions will be impossible, and the people of Martinique will continue to suffer. Along with this, the government should also implement education to the population on how they can minimize their exposure to the toxic pesticide. Because the French government has ignored this issue for so long, the lack of understanding over how the pesticide threatens the environment and human health is unsettling and gaining knowledge should be the first step in solving Martinique’s pesticide poisoning. The French government has the funding and power to give the people of Martinique the quality of life they deserve.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

FeelGood Grilled CheeseFeelGood grilled cheese stations have been popping up all over the country, from UCLA to Boston University and 23 other chapters across the United States and Canada. On Tuesday nights from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Warren Towers Late Nite Café at Boston University, FeelGood’s grilled cheese deli comes alive. This station has been a staple at the university for years, selling grilled cheese sandwiches for $6.50. FeelGood is a non-profit social enterprise run completely by students that deliver 100 percent of its proceeds to charitable organizations that work to combat extreme poverty and hunger. Since its inception in 2005, FeelGood has raised $1.96 million for global poverty reduction efforts across 25 chapters.

FeelGood is devoted to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 with the help of over 1,500 volunteers. Aisha White is one of those volunteers. As a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, White received a flyer regarding a meeting about grilled cheese, “I love food and I love volunteering, so it seemed like a good fit. Like most students who attend their first meeting, I was drawn in by the grilled cheese—but stayed for the community of people who not only cared about ending global poverty but were dedicated to ending it in our lifetime.”

The FeelGood grilled cheese system operates on three levels, the first is raising money. Originally, selling sandwiches was an easy way for FeelGood founders Kristin Walter and Talis Apud-Hendricks to raise money for their favorite non-profit organizations. Today, chapters raise between $15,000 to $30,000 a year and every cent goes to the Commitment 2030 Fund, a group of organizations whose initiative is to eliminate global poverty by the year 2030 in a sustainable manner. These organizations include the Pachamama Alliance, Water for People, The Hunger Project and Choice Humanitarian.

The second level of operations is conversation. FeelGood provides anyone who visits a grilled cheese shop the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on global hunger and poverty. President of the Boston University Chapter Abigail Mack says FeelGood is “an interesting way to get people involved and to take something really simple like cheese and bread and then turn it into a really big impact to make a difference.” This leads to the third level, empowering youth. For more than a decade, FeelGood grilled cheese delis have displayed a proven means of empowering students with the opportunity to run a business and work towards ending global poverty by 2030. Anna Yum, Vice President of the BU chapter, says, “We’re not just asking for money, we’re also creating a business model.”

Students can get involved by joining a chapter or starting one if their university does not have an existing chapter. As a low-effort way to get involved, any student can visit a local chapter or event to make a donation by purchasing a grilled cheese sandwich.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in the United Kingdom
When thinking about education in the United Kingdom, it is almost impossible not to consider Oxford and Cambridge. These two-century-old bastions of higher education in England garner recognition throughout the world and lend themselves to an image of British superiority in education. Rightfully so, they sit atop the education system but facilitate the overlooking of the rest of it. When looking further down the hierarchy, imperfections emerge, bordering on a crisis. Despite its image of a wealthy, developed nation, 4.5 million children live below the poverty line, comprising 33 percent of the country’s demographic. With such a substantial proportion of students struggling to feed and clothe themselves, poverty takes a profound toll on British education. Here are eight facts about education in the United Kingdom that illustrate the crisis.

 8 Facts About Education in the United Kingdom

  1. Poverty and Education: As a testament to how staggeringly poverty affects the classroom, 87 percent of teachers and other staff claim that it has a significant impact on learning, according to a survey that the National Education Union and Child Poverty Action Group conducted. Six out of 10 respondents in this survey said that the situation had worsened since 2015. Surveys such as these demonstrate the shift in focus from children’s learning and development to their fundamental well being.
  2. Food Banks: To combat this growing issue, many schools in the U.K. host food banks to feed students and their families. About 8 percent of schools operate a food bank on-site, according to the National Governance Association’s survey. In addition to basic food services, many schools feel the need to provide general welfare as well, including emergency loans for parents.
  3. Teachers Provide Care: Teachers themselves bear much of this burden, often balancing their duty to educate with an instinct to care by providing foods such as cereal to students in the middle of lessons. Additionally, some go to the lengths of washing clothes for their pupils and ensuring they have food during holidays. The most compassionate educators dip into their own bank accounts to buy supplies and clothes for the kids that need it most. The CfBT Education Trust started in 1968 as the Center for British Teachers and became a charity in 1976. It generally researches and supports the education sector, often in service of teachers to alleviate these issues.
  4. Attempt to Garner Funding: With funding strapped already, schools worry about their ability to accommodate disadvantaged pupils. Seventy-eight percent of school governors reported a general failure to meet needs due to inadequate funds and 61 percent said that they could not extend support to disadvantaged students. Compelled to help these children, many lobby for additional funding that they doubt will come.
  5. Sure Start Centers: Record unemployment, stagnant wages and high inflation place low-income parents in a precarious situation, sometimes choosing between sending sick kids to school and losing a day’s pay to stay at home with them. In 2010, 3,500 Sure Start centers operated throughout the U.K. to mitigate some of the daycare and other early childhood necessities for parents who needed them. Since then, however, 1,000 have closed or have severely restricted services.
  6. Challenges for Students: While parents and teachers face hardships due to the poverty crisis, children ultimately suffer the most. Students ashamed of their lack of supplies or new clothes skip school more frequently out of fear of bullying. This exacerbates their already tired, hungry, angry and confused mindset. Their poverty affects their learning at home just as much as at school, where crowded, noisy homes make homework and regular sleep exceedingly difficult. On top of that, their lack of resources shows more dramatically than at school. Computers, textbooks and other supplies become inaccessible in families that do not work or work hard but can barely afford the basics.
  7. Children’s Mental Health: Due to all of this, low-income children often feel that they fall behind wealthy classmates, and may develop mental health issues as a result. In the short term, one in four feels anxious or worried about their family’s financial situation. In the long term, these children have more than two times the chance of developing more permanent mental health conditions. The Sutton Trust encourages social mobility through education by focusing on efforts to combat educational inequality.
  8. Charities: In addition to those aforementioned, numerous charities combat these conditions. The Nuffield Foundation strives to benefit social welfare through funding education, science and social science research projects. Nesta, formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, originated in 1998 to promote innovation in the U.K. by running practical programs, conducting research and supporting partnerships. The Education Endowment Foundation champions a dedication to the insurance that children from all kinds of backgrounds have access to education, fulfilling their potentials and applying their talents. Lastly, the Wellcome Trust funds biomedical research as well as promoting the public understanding of science.

These eight facts about education in the United Kingdom do not cast a particularly optimistic light, although there are several efforts to improve circumstances. Though the U.K. faces an exceedingly uphill task to address poverty and education in Britain, the charities named in this article do excellent work to assist as many children as they can. While their work is important and provides desperately needed support, ultimately the government’s funding cuts impede systematic progress. The good news is that many candidates across the U.K. recognize the need for more education funding and have promised it ahead of the upcoming December 2019 election.

– Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr