Snack Against Hunger and PovertyPeople can often feel hopeless nowadays when addressing global poverty and hunger on a personal level. One can only donate so many times before it feels pointless. For decades there was a decrease in poverty and hunger all around the world. However, with the pandemic in full force, the numbers are once again increasing.

So what should can each individual consumer do to help those in need and bring these statistics down? They must change daily patterns, so nearly all of their “normal” actions start benefitting someone else. One way is to switch up the food consumers eat. Many brands in a variety of food categories use their profits to fight global poverty and hunger. Switching to one of these brands allows people to effectively snack against hunger and poverty. Below are just a few of the brands aiding in poverty and hunger-reduction.

1. Bobo’s

Bobo’s donates their profits from selling oat-based products to eight organizations. Two of the organizations focus on food security in the U.S. (Community Food Share and Conscious Alliance), and one nonprofit provides housing for low-income families (Habitat for Humanity). Get in a dose of nutritious oats to snack against hunger and poverty.

2. This Saves Lives

This Saves Lives has something for everyone. They have 10 different flavor options, a variety of kid’s options and five types of crispy treats. For each purchase, This Saves Lives provides a calorie-dense packet of paste filled with nutrients to a child in need. So far, over 24 million packets have been sent out!

3. Barnana

Barnana is a company that produces plantain-based chips in normal chip form, tortilla style and flavor bites. All consumers can find a chip that will satisfy whether that’s salty or sweet. The plantains used for the chips are upcycled from those that were deemed not perfect enough for mainstream market standards. By upcycling the produce, Barnana fights food waste and secures extra income for small scale farmers that depend on every sale.

4. Project 7

Project 7 is a healthy candy brand that makes gummies, lollipops and everything in between. They partner with nonprofits to help the seven areas of need: healing, saving, housing, food, drink, teaching and hope. Make chewing a life-giving activity and snack against hunger and poverty.

5. Beanfields

Beanfields is another company that creates chips both sweet and salty, similar to Barnana. The company — centered in a kitchen and not a boardroom — cooks up a variety of bean-based tortilla chips and cracklings. They get creative by producing an environment-conscious snack while also supporting people in need. Beanfields partners with Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps ex-gang members find peace and stability in their new lives. Homeboy Industries partners with many nonprofits fighting hunger and poverty that provide ex-offenders jobs and a sense of community.

Buying snacks and snacking are often mindless activities. Helping people should have that same ease and it does. Yet, it often falls on the back burner and gets forgotten. Buying from companies donating to those in need is one easy solution. People can enjoy their favorite foods in a more effective way. Why just snack when one can snack against hunger and poverty?

Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

African Vegetable StaplesAfrica has millions of hectares of viable land for large-scale agricultural operations. Many large regions of Africa are the last locations on the planet with large plots of land rich in soil nutrients and water sufficiency. New government infrastructure, a global investment and advanced technology has allowed sub-Saharan African farmers to raise crop yield. The agriculture industry is the most viable way to feed families on a small scale in villages. African vegetable staples are important as they are the bulk of the famous nutritional African diet.

Approximately 65% of the African labor force involves itself in agriculture, with the agriculture industry accounting for 32% of the region’s GDP. Governments have attempted to increase crop yield by utilizing agriculture marketing boards in order to provide more stable and standardized prices, credit extension services, technology and improved seeds. Additionally, more companies in the private sector have improved rural marketing and supply lines. These advances in extension services improve land and water management, introduce new farming techniques and provide new, efficient technology.

Essential African Vegetable Staples

Essential African vegetable staples include yams, green bananas, plantains and cassava. There are a plethora of different and unique ways of preparing dishes particular to each region and culture. Vegetables such as beans and lentils accompany almost every meal in order to provide a balanced nutritious diet. People in Africa consider meat a side dish rather than the main dish, and vegetables the main dish. Typical African vegetable staples specific to a region are dependent on the location, land viability, soil richness and water availability. Rice is more common where there is more water whereas cash crops such as groundnut are common in every household.

Many African staple foods provide a base diet for African families. African vegetable staples provide the necessary proteins, vitamins and nutrients that combat the alarming, wide-scale malnutrition issues that run rampant in many small villages that are not connected to large cities. With no access to large-scale trade or industrial resources, villagers take care of each other with personal farms. Additionally, many African vegetables also double as medicinal uses as well, allowing improved community health and nutrition.

Many staple meals accompany African’s rich variety of culture and history. The thousands of various African cultures utilize varieties of spices to prepare the same ingredient to uphold their respective traditional values and ideas. Diverse food choices are unique in each region and can range from fermented beans, sweet potato greens, teff and varieties of dumplings, to corn-based porridges, millet, kenkey, fontou and fonio. The diverse sets of languages within each region also have their own unique menus specific to their culture and certain traditions.

Case Study: The Democratic Republic of Congo

Vegetables grown in the DRC include peanuts, yams, beans, peas and maize. The political instability of the DRC has led to problems of malnutrition and lack of food access for millions of people. However, vegetables are used as an efficient solution because of the mass remote lands DRC controls for horticulture. The agriculture industry supports more than half of the DRC population. Although farming provides less than 10% of DRC’s GDP, land use is minimal to only 3.5% of DRC’s land and accounts for over 50 tons of subsistence foodstuffs.

What Next?

African vegetables have been the bulk of the African diet for millennia. Not only is it an efficient and effective way of utilizing rich soil and plentiful land on the continent, but it is also one of the most viable ways to aid the economy while doing so. Vegetables in Africa are the staple food not just for the famous nutritious diets, but also because they are an important characteristic of African identity and culture. Many African recipes eaten today have passed down generation after generation in an effort to maintain and uphold tradition. The African vegetable staples are one of the most unique characteristics of African culture and are a testament to their devotion to their diverse ideas and traditions.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is one of the most well-known and most visited countries internationally for tourists in the Caribbean. Although it is a rich area for tourists to travel, the poverty rate remains a major issue. Located in rural areas are many families who do not have proper schooling. They also do not have proper healthcare systems or access to basic sanitation and clean water. In 2018, the poverty rate for the Dominican Republic was 13.80%, a 2.1% decline from 2017. Meanwhile, 13.80% of the population in the Dominican Republic are unable to provide the basic needs for their families or loved ones. This country is still struggling and battling poverty. However, there are many efforts taking place to increase poverty eradication in the Dominican Republic.

Cross Catholic Outreach

Cross Catholic Outreach is a ministry that serves the poor globally by mobilizing churches and individuals to break the cycle of poverty. This organization helps to provide basic needs, such as food, clean water, education, medical support and more. These provisions go to the poorest countries around the globe. In rural areas, new homes are being built, providing safe and sustainable dwelling places for many families by Cross Catholic Outreach. These homes are now able to provide safe spaces and clean areas. As a result, families living in these homes can focus more on providing proper education for their children and seeking the medical care they need. As of 2019, 24 homes underwent construction with three water systems finished.

In addition, the Project, which the Cross Catholic Outreach ministry created, has provided new clean water systems. These systems have a mixture of gravity, electric and solar power to collect clean water. The water distributes to local homes, decreasing the number of waterborne illnesses and other diseases. With this strategy, The Project plans on having a total of six clean water systems that local brigades will construct within the Dominican Republic.

Food for Poor

Additionally, Food for Poor (FFP) is a nonprofit Christian organization. It provides supplies that include medicine, food and other necessities. In 2019, this organization shipped a 50 tractor-trailer cargo of supplies. The supplies contained food, medicine, healthcare and educational resources to the Dominican Republic. FFP built more than 1,500 homes and has assembled over 40 water projects. This organization continues to aid the poverty eradication in the Dominican Republic by initiating community development projects. These projects provide clinics, housing, agriculture, women’s vocational training projects and more.

The Social Protection Investment Project

The Social Protection Investment Project aims to enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection in the Dominican Republic. The goal of this project was to enhance and improve educational and health investments to the poorest of people living in the Dominican Republic. Its goal was also to provide identification documents to unidentified Dominicans. The approach that this project took had to do with seeking out poor, undocumented Dominicans to direct them in securing identification documents. With families and individuals living in poverty being registered and identified, they will benefit from programs that aid poverty-stricken Dominicans. This should also lead them to securing educational and health investments.

Furthermore, the Social Protection Investment Project has met many of its goals. The percentage of households living in poverty that were lacking identification documents has reduced from 28% in 2005 to 7% in 2016. In 2012, the poverty status of registered households living in poverty was all certified for participation in programs that include the cash transfer program.

Overall, programs along with organizations are aiding poverty eradication in the Dominican Republic. They build new homes, implement clean water systems and provide necessities. Organizations are continuing to lend a helping hand all while thinking of new strategies to increase poverty eradication in the Dominican Republic.

– Kendra Anderson
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Eradication in Iceland
With a population of 341,741 people and poverty rates rising, Iceland has continued its trend of incorporating old and innovative solutions to eradicate poverty. Valdimar Svavarsson, the manager of the Christian nonprofit organization Samhjalp in Iceland, told The Borgen Project that “Iceland is overall considered to be among the best places to live in the world in terms of quality of life.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened that quality of life significantly. Several innovations in poverty eradication in Iceland, such as welfare centers, government programs and other new ideas have emerged as the pandemic has increased the unemployment rate in Iceland.

Lowering Unemployment and the Department of Welfare

Iceland has been working towards reducing its unemployment and poverty rate by initiating welfare centers. Six welfare service centers are in Reykjavik, and they help Icelandic citizens access services related to Icelandic schools, financial support, counseling and more.

The Department of Welfare for Reykjavik, Iceland coordinates a variety of projects and events to help with poverty-related issues in Iceland with the core values of welfare, respect and activity in mind for people who request help. It mainly focuses on projects involving financial assistance, child protection and social housing programs, which all help with Icelandic low-income households. In particular, the financial assistance department of the Department of Welfare works to help unemployed citizens and families in Iceland through a simple application process. The application process requires that citizens search for employment. However, citizens can appeal the results of their applications if they receive a denial.

Homelessness and Limited Housing

The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, last reported that 360 people were homeless at the end of 2017. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Vilborg Oddsodottir, the Head of the Domestic Department of the Icelandic Church Aid Group, said that “there is a low-income housing company in Iceland right now” to help deal with the high housing prices in Iceland.

Solutions to Reducing Child Poverty in Iceland

Another innovation in poverty eradication is how Iceland has been working toward eliminating child poverty in the country. In fact, it ranks at the top for children’s rights. As of the latest report in 2015, the child poverty rate in Iceland was on the lower end of approximately 5% based on their families’ income levels prior to the pandemic.

The Icelandic Church Aid Group formed in 1970 and is better known as the Church Relief Society. The Church Relief Society partnered with Iceland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for an innovative poverty solution that gives educational supplies to lower-income families across Iceland through an application process starting in late August 2020. The new initiative entitled “No Child Left Out” wants to make sure students are not experiencing social isolation based on their family’s financial situation. Vilborg Oddsodottir advised The Borgen Project thateducation is the best way out of poverty, and we have to maintain respect for all kinds of education” available to students in Iceland. In 2020, the Icelandic Church Aid Group helped approximately 30,000 children in Iceland according to Oddsodottir.

How Iceland enacted Innovative Testing Procedures and Government Aid during COVID-19

Only 5.4% of Iceland’s citizens were living below the poverty line in 2015. One of the major causes of poverty in Iceland is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket even as the country implemented innovations in COVID-19 protection early on. In the past few months, Iceland was able to test any citizen requesting a test and automatically isolate infected citizens from the public as most businesses remained open. Due to these innovative precautions, Iceland was able to reopen to tourists as early as June 15, 2020, and even implemented the requirement of testing each tourist.

After most of the Icelandic public received COVID-19 tests, the citizens were able to view their results using an innovative contact tracing application to prevent an outbreak. Even with precautions, Vilborg Oddsodottir has seen that “COVID has affected us a lot because now we have nearly 9% unemployment in Iceland. Even in our bank crisis, we have not seen unemployment like we have now.” The Icelandic government’s innovative support system is addressing the increased unemployment rate. The unemployment benefits stated that people would receive some of their salary based on the amount of part-time work they had with their company until September 30, 2020.

Food Aid

The Iceland Family Aid program has been working towards helping low-income families across Iceland since its founding in 2003. The organization is accepting food donations every month at its only two locations in Reykjavik and Reykjanesbaer. The way for the food undergoes distribution across Iceland is through an online registration process that delivers the food to low-income residents once a month, providing aid to various families and people living in poverty and aiding in poverty eradication in Iceland.

With the reduction in tourism and increasing unemployment rates due to COVID-19, Valdimar Svavarsson has found that “at the moment, the government is doing many things to support the growing group that is now facing unemployment.” The current innovative solutions and input of the Icelandic government should help the country bounce back from high unemployment rates while helping low-income citizens.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste Around the World
As the global population continues to grow, the demand for food also grows. The solution to this problem is not to produce more food but rather to waste less food. Globally, about one-third of food that people produce for human consumption goes to waste, which is about 1.3 billion tons. This number includes 45% of all fruits and vegetables, 35% of seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat. Unsurprisingly, studies have repeatedly shown that developed countries, on average, waste more food than developing ones. Read on to learn about food waste around the world.

Food Waste Culprits in the Developed World

The United States and Australia are the two countries that produce the most food waste in the world. In 2010, around 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in the U.S., which is $161 billion worth of food. In 2015, the USDA and EPA joined together to set a goal of cutting food waste by 50% by 2050. Despite that goal, the U.S. continues to waste about 30% to 40% of its food supply each year.

Every year in Australia, about 7.3 million tons of food goes to waste. Australia’s food waste per person is around 300 kg. Australia’s food waste costs the country’s economy an estimated $20 billion each year. As a result, the Australian government set a goal to halve its food waste by 2030.

These two countries contribute massive amounts of food waste around the world despite having the wealth to address the issue.

Food Waste Champions in the Developed World

Greece and China are the most efficient countries when it comes to limiting food waste around the world. Columbia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and France are not far behind them in terms of how other developed countries rank. The scale and reach of governmental actions to address the issue separate these countries from the U.S. and Australia in the fight against food waste.

In 2017, the Sustainable Food Movement emerged out of Athens. Greece’s immense success today results from people taking this initiative seriously and enforcing it with fervor. The country went from producing an average amount of food waste to being the most food efficient country in the world. It accomplished this feat in just three years.

Greece sets an example for the rest of the world. It proves other places could implement similar initiatives to diminish food waste around the world.

Food Waste in the Developing World

Affluent countries have the means to significantly lower their food waste. However, developing countries tend to outperform many developed countries in this particular arena. India and Brazil are two examples of developing countries displaying some of the lowest food waste levels in the world. Each year, Brazil produces almost 15 million kg of waste nationally and 71 kg per person.

Meanwhile, India wastes up to 40% of its food each year. India has one of the highest rates of food waste nationally at nearly 68 million kg. Yet, its food waste per person is quite low at 51 kg per year. To note, India’s population is nearly 1.4 billion people, showing that a gap exists between its national and personal food waste statistics.

An important distinction between developed and developing countries is the stage that people are most likely to waste food. In developed countries, the individual consumer level is where most food waste occurs. This is due to the average citizen’s ability to buy more than enough food for their family. In developing countries, the most wasteful stage of food production happens in the earliest stages of distribution. Poor infrastructure and inadequate food storage vessels contribute to the most food waste in these countries. In fact, much of the food is wasted before it ever reaches the consumer.

Food for Thought

The global population is about 7.6 billion, and 925 million of those people are starving. The amount of food wasted globally each year is enough food to feed 3 billion people. In other words, the world has more than enough food to feed the planet, but there is a huge issue of food distribution.

By 2050, estimates have determined that the global population will become around 9 billion. This means that food production will have to increase by 70% to keep up with the world’s current path. That is a near-impossible task to accomplish. It would be more efficient to refocus efforts on limiting food waste overall.

Food waste around the world is an issue that some countries have chosen to tackle with great success while other countries falter. The future of the world population depends on all countries working to decrease food waste.

A Helping Hand

Hands for Hunger, an NGO based in the Bahamas, is making significant progress in the pervasive issue of worldwide food waste. A group of students realized that restaurants and hotels throw an immense amount of unspoiled food away every day. As a result, they set out to change that.

Hands for Hunger focuses on obtaining this typically discarded food and redistributing it to the less fortunate. In addition, it educates the public on the issue itself and solutions. The organization serves around 15,000 meals to Bahamians each week by redistributing restaurant and hotel food to its 17 outreach agencies. It delivers around 4,530 pounds of food to Bahamians in need every week.

Hands for Hunger has rescued over 1 million pounds of fresh food. Through its recovery efforts, the organization is able to donate quality food to those in need. Almost 50% of all food donations in 2017 were high-need items such as dairy, proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. Hands for Hunger is just one of many NGOs doing fantastic work to decrease food waste around the world. While food waste is a problem, it has an attainable and feasible solution.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Pixabay

Fighting World Hunger
Vegans are often the butt of every joke in pop culture, from comments on their hair and hygiene to their fondness for eating “rabbit food.” Yet, vegans are more than their food choices; veganism is a form of activism. This article will explore five vegan groups fighting world hunger.

Veganism and Global Hunger

Plants produce 9.46 quadrillion calories each year, enough to feed every human 2,700 calories a day for a year, with 2 quadrillion calories leftover. If this is the case, why do people go hungry? Unfortunately, humans only consume a little over half of these calories, with 36% going to animal feed and 9% to industry. This leaves humans with only 5.6 trillion calories — well below the amount necessary to solve world hunger. When consuming animals, a staggering 89% of calories of these plant calories disappear when humans consume animals secondarily.

Moreover, animal-based diets require 1,000% more crop growth than plant-based diets. Moving to a plant-based diet creates 70% more room to grow crops, and, even accounting for population growth, could bring an end to global hunger.

Fortunately, many activism groups are working to fight global hunger and poverty while serving healthy vegan meals. Here are five vegan groups fighting world hunger.

5 Vegan Groups Fighting World Hunger

  1. Food Not Bombs: Anti-nuclear activists founded Food Not Bombs in 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their goal was to spark an anti-violence movement against war, poverty, food waste and global hunger through education, protests and providing individuals with meals from recovered food waste. The organization feeds people in 1,000 cities in 65 countries around the world. Food Not Bombs believes that food is a right, not a privilege.
  2. World Central Kitchen: World Central Kitchen uses food to empower communities and provide relief during difficult times. Jose Andrews and his wife founded the organization to cook meals, including vegan and vegetarian ones, for those suffering from hunger abroad. The organization works by giving women in other countries access to cooking supplies, training chefs in Haiti to cook and providing healthy meals to families in need. WCK does international frontline work during natural disasters, providing over 3.7 million meals to victims of Hurricane Maria in 2o17.
  3. Food Empowerment Project: Lauren Ornelas, a woman of color, founded Food Empowerment Project as a way to educate people about making ethically sustainable food choices. Among fighting for animal rights, Food Empowerment Project also fights for racial equality, poverty reduction and environmental justice. By making ethically sustainable food choices, people can prevent deaths and empower those with fewer resources. Through its website, Food Empowerment Project provides the public with education about veganism, including access to sustainable, vegan recipes.
  4. Food for Life: In 1974, the founder of Srila Prabhupada told his yoga students to begin serving food to the hungry, believing that “No one within ten miles of a temple should go hungry.” From there, his yoga students began creating food kitchens around the world, creating the basis for Food for Life. The organization aims to promote Vedic values of equality by giving vegan meals to those in need and during times of crisis. To date, volunteers have served over 6 million meals since the organization’s start, amounting to nearly 20 tons of vegan food.
  5. Vegans Against World Hunger: Helen Wright and Julian Wilkinson founded Vegans Against World Hunger in 2019 as a way to fight global poverty and hunger through vegan meals in the U.K and abroad. The nonprofit works to create food forests that provide food stability, combat deforestation and establish food banks around the globe. While it is a new organization, Vegans Against World Hunger has a bright future ahead.

These vegan groups fighting world hunger show that vegans around the world are using their plant-based diets to help solve one of the quintessential issues facing the world today: global hunger. While the transition to a completely plant-based diet brings challenges, scientists see that it could be a step forward in fighting global poverty and hunger through ethical and sustainable food choices.

Breanna Bonner
Photo: Pixabay

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