SPOON, Helping Children With Feeding DifficultiesApproximately 93 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with a disability. A total of 80% of these children have problems with feeding processes. Children with disabilities often suffer from medical conditions like anemia and, along with children who do not receive nutrition through a caregiver, are among the groups that are most likely to be malnourished. However, two women from Portland, Oregon, founded the nonprofit organization SPOON to address children’s malnutrition.

Providing Nutritional Assistance for Children Worldwide

SPOON was founded in 2007 when Cindy Kaplan and Mishelle Rudzinski adopted two children from Kazakhstan who were diagnosed with severe malnutrition. They created SPOON to ensure that all children across the globe receive nourishment. SPOON aims to provide help for caregivers through nutrition programs and assessing the needs of children with feeding difficulties. As the most important part of their mission, the organization puts a special focus on nutrition support for children who do not have a family to care for them or those with a disability.

Helping Children With Feeding Difficulties

Children diagnosed with a disability are three times as likely to suffer from undernourishment than those without any disabilities. Furthermore, one of SPOON’s studies showed that approximately 91% of children in institutions and without family care do not receive the nutrition they need.

Carolyn Moore, the Policy and Advocacy Advisor for SPOON, told The Borgen Project that the two groups often overlap since “institutionalization and separation are more common for children with disabilities.” Moore further explained that the lack of training regarding children with special needs is a significant contributor to feeding difficulties and nutritional health conditions.

The population of children in need of the help SPOON has to offer is immense. Approximately 250 million children who live in developing countries are at immediate risk of stunting. Additionally, 53 million under the age of 5 received diagnoses with cognitive delays, reduced motor skills and other disabilities.

According to Moore, there are additional tens of millions of children who live “in institutions or … on the streets.” One of the main challenges in making sure that all children receive the nutrition they need is that caregivers often do not understand the importance of finding the right feeding process. This is especially important since nutrition is the main contributor to ensure a child’s health. It also affects the development of their brain and body.

Teaching People Important Feeding Skills

SPOON operates with several different methods. The first step of its work includes helping local partners and caregivers of children with disabilities. This is “to build their skills in the specific nutrition eating needs and techniques.” The initial training period covers many different aspects, including learning how to improve feeding techniques, correctly assessing the specific problems a child is facing and adapting diets and nutrition accordingly to individual needs.

Another part of SPOON’s work is the organization’s mobile app called Count Me In. The tool assesses the growth and problems of children with feeding difficulties, especially those with disabilities and in institutions. The app is then able to offer appropriate solutions to caregivers. Moore explained that Count Me In “can recommend improvements around positioning and texture” of the food. It is also a very efficient way for the organization to collect valuable data. By 2019, many orphanages in countries such as Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia have used Count Me In.

Advocacy and the Global Child Thrive Act

The third important component of SPOON’s work is advocacy. Moore explains the need for children with disabilities worldwide to have access to nutrition and support with their feeding difficulties. She emphasizes the need for nonprofit organizations to look at how to “change policies and change systems” permanently. For example, SPOON was part of the Thrive Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations that advocated for the Global Child Thrive Act, which was passed into law in January of 2021.

The coalition continuously met with congress and the media. This resulted in more than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate co-sponsoring the bill. The Global Child Thrive Act assures that the United States government will contribute to strengthening early childhood development. This is for 250 million children under 5 in low-to-middle-income countries. According to Moore, the act was especially important to SPOON, since it specifically included support for “children with disabilities or without family care.”

Helping Children All Across the Globe

In addition to helping with the passage of the Thrive Act, SPOON has seen many successes throughout the years. After working in countries like Vietnam, China and India for two years, the rate of stunting in the children decreased from 55% to 23% and the percentage of children with anemia went down from 41% to 13%. Furthermore, SPOON’s advocacy efforts significantly contributed to a policy change in Kazakhstan that resulted in better nutrition for children without family care.

Also, data collected through Count Me In in 2020 showed a 35% improvement in the growth of kids and found that 82% of caregivers had adjusted feeding positions according to the children’s needs. Another 2020 success was the development of the SPOON chair. The chair will help children with disabilities by allowing them to sit upright during the feeding process.

Partnering With Other Organizations to Help Children

SPOON has also seen much success through collaborations with local partners. In Zambia, SPOON worked together with CMMB, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children with diseases by improving their nutrition. Together, the two organizations were in charge of the Improving Nutrition and Safe Feeding Practices project. This project specifically focused on children with disabilities and without family care.

Moore explained that SPOON and CMMB provided “specialized training in the nutrition and feeding issues” that are common for the two groups of children. The project worked with nutritionists and clinicians who had no prior experience in this specific field. Data pulled from Count Me In in Zambia from 225 surveyed children shows that between the years 2017 and 2020, the feeding positions improved in more than half of all cases for children with disabilities. There was a reduction in malnutrition for every child that was evaluated more than once through the application.

SPOON’s work has significantly contributed to improving the health and lives of many children with feeding difficulties. SPOON has displayed solutions for helping disadvantaged children and has revealed the need for further organizations to join their cause. Moore noted with the “big shift in food insecurity,” due to COVID-19, SPOON’s work is incredibly vital.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: With permission from Carolyn Moore

Smart Farms Fiji
27-year-old Rinesh Sharma is the man behind the Smart Farms Fiji initiative, which aims to combat food scarcity and malnutrition across Fiji. The idea came from his family’s experiences that were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their diet growing up contained few vegetables and fruits because his parents could not regularly afford them.

This is a shared experience across much of Fiji. High food prices have led to high rates of food scarcity and malnutrition. Access to nutritious food supplies has only worsened since the pandemic, as people have lost their jobs and are left with little money to purchase expensive fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, COVID-19 halted or seriously limited food transportation. In response, Smart Farms Fiji aims to ensure everyone across Fiji has access to nutritious vegetables and fruits. It also wants the population to have a consistent supply of food to put on the table.

Hydroponic Farming

To begin with, Sharma conceptualized a large-scale hydroponic farming system. Hydroponic farming is a method of growing plants without soil, growing them directly in nutrient-rich water. Hydroponic farming helps plants absorb nutrients at a faster rate, which means quicker, easier and more reliable harvests. This allows more people easy and quick access to more crops and reduces food scarcity and malnutrition. Sharma was granted $20,000 in financial assistance from the government, which allowed him to invest and incorporate hydroponic systems into larger commercial farms across Fiji.

Since the pandemic, the main focus has been on a more localized and accessible supply of food and farming resources. Within the initiative, Sharma has created an at-home hydroponic kit. The kit contains 15 seedlings of lettuce, cabbage, kale, mint, basil and others. It also includes a water tank, net cups, soil nutrient solutions and a step-by-step guide. These kits have been sold and donated across Fiji and provide a local, continuous, reliable and easy source of nutritious food for many families who are struggling to put food on the table.

Reducing Hunger

Energy poverty is common on islands in the Pacific because many people live in remote areas without access to electricity. The Smart Farms Fiji initiative ensures that being remote does not hinder access to food. The at-home hydroponic kits are electricity-free to ensure all inhabitants have access to adequate and nutritious food supplies.

Furthermore, U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 2 is the main objective of Smart Farms Fiji and the reason Rinesh Sharma began the initiative. So far the initiative is having success, as it has helped Fijian families access steady and reliable supplies of healthy food that is full of the nutrition they need to continue to prosper. After only a month since the conception of the at-home hydroponic kits, the initiative deployed 15 kits and conducted 15 educational classes for households. It is well on its way to ensuring local food security.

Influence on Poverty and Education

One of the key points of concern when conceptualizing the initiative was the pesticides used in typical farming practices. Sharma saw how much traditional farming harmed coastal towns that rely on local fishing to earn their wages. The pesticide runoffs harm marine life that coastal workers needed to survive. In response, Smart Farms Fiji aims to promote pesticide-free farming that will help these coastal communities out of poverty and give them thriving business opportunities.

Sharma has also continued to expand his initiative through education. He has held classes with local communities that have at-home hydroponic kits, educating them about more sustainable subsistence farming and how to get the best out of their crops. Additionally, he has regularly attended schools and colleges where he has discussed with students everything from leadership, entrepreneurship and how students can contribute to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. He wants to inspire and mobilize the next generation to use their education to change the world by combatting poverty, food scarcity and malnutrition.

– Lizzie Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in VenezuelaA meager 3% of Venezuelan families are considered food secure in a country where more than 96% of people live in poverty. Child malnutrition in Venezuela rose to 26% from December 2019 to March 2020. Maduro’s government, a hotbed of mismanagement, corruption and cronyism, has done little to help the poverty and malnutrition in Venezuela. Hyperinflation continues to suppress economic activity, and U.S. sanctions imposed to pressure Maduro into reform or exit, have limited Venezuela’s access to imported food, medicine and other basic goods. On April 19, 2021, the World Food Programme announced that it would be implementing a program to address food insecurity and malnutrition in Venezuela.

Child Malnutrition in Venezuela

A 2021 policy brief by medical researchers called Venezuela’s public health system “practically non-existent.” Especially with U.S. sanctions, many healthcare facilities are unable to obtain the medicine or medical equipment needed to properly function. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic puts further strain on already limited health resources. As of April 2021, the Venezuelan Government has vaccinated less than 1% of the Venezuelan population.

According to a UNICEF report, 13% of children in Venezuela suffered from malnutrition between 2013 and 2018. Without access to sufficient calories, protein or generally diverse foods, many of these children will be held back developmentally, far beyond their childhood years. Venezuelan nutritionist, Raquel Mendoza, tells Thompson Reuters that “A population suffering from malnutrition implies we are going to have adults with less physical and intellectual potential.” Mendoza states further that “We’re going to see a regression in the development of the country because human resources are diminished.” These words express the urgency and importance of speedily addressing malnutrition in the country.

Before 2009, Venezuela’s infant mortality rate was steadily declining. In the first decade of the Chavez presidency, which began in 1999, infant mortality dropped by half. However, under Venezuela’s ongoing economic and sociopolitical crisis, the infant mortality rate has regressed to where it was in the 1990s. Even though many cases go unreported, statistics show that child mortality increased by 30% in 2016.

The World Food Programme Alleviates Malnutrition

Starting in July 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) will provide school lunches for children between 1 and 6 years of age. The WFP’s goal is to reach 185,000 students by the end of 2021 and 1.5 million by the end of 2023. These meals will mainly go to preschool and special education schools, but public and private schools will receive aid too.

Despite the pressing need for foreign aid, the Maduro government has historically rebuffed aid attempts by international organizations and governments. According to the Washington Post, Maduro blocked almost $60 million worth of U.S. aid in 2019 and insisted that Venezuela was not a country of beggars.

The agreement reached between Maduro and the WFP Executive Director David Beasley on April 19, 2020, came after months of resistance by the government. The program’s operations will remain independent of the political turmoil and uncertainty of Maduro’s rule.

The Road Ahead

Although the aid cannot catapult Venezuela out of its current crisis, the WFP program will improve the lives of many families who do not know how or when they will eat next. Although rarely dissolving geopolitical tensions or toppling an unjust regime, humanitarian aid organizations can and do protect those who suffer from the impacts of corruption, mismanagement and conflicts of others.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Peanuts Reduce PovertyEvery year, more than three million children under 5 years old die as a result of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), making it the largest killer of young children. In developing countries, including sub-Saharan African countries, Uganda, Malawi and Haiti, malnutrition is a severe issue that pediatricians and scientists are looking for a simple way to solve. Some of these ideas are successfully showing how peanut butter and peanuts reduce poverty and save lives.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition starts in the womb. Therefore, scientists intend to stop malnutrition and anemia in young mothers hoping to give their babies a more nutritional start to life. In Malawi, roughly 50% of all pregnant women and nearly a third of nursing mothers are anemic and in need of a higher calorie diet that can start with peanut butter.

The Power in a Peanut

Peanuts contain more plant protein per ounce than any other nut, making it a powerhouse for nutrition. Only one ounce of peanuts reduces malnutrition by providing an adequate source of niacin and magnesium. Peanut butter is also a good source of fiber and contains other essential nutrients. The nutritional value in peanut butter creates better nutritional and health outcomes, necessitating fewer hospital visits for young children.

Peanuts also contain healthy oils that are “trans-fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in saturated fats.” As a high caloric nut and an impressive source of nutrients, peanuts reduce poverty because the nut addresses malnutrition in malnourished children and young mothers, helping them to gain weight and maintain a balanced diet.

Peanut Butter With a Punch

Peanut butter alone is a good source of nutrition and calories but scientists working to eradicate malnourishment have amped up the standard peanut butter recipes to cater to undernourished bodies.

The most talked-about of these miracle nutritional products is Plumpy’Nut, a nutritional, protein-packed peanut-based paste. Plumpy’Nut comes in portioned plastic wraps that are easy to store and easy to open, making it a resilient food for unstable conditions. Unlike some other ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF), one does not need to mix Plumpy’Nut with water, cutting down the risk of spreading disease.

Nourimamba is a similar peanut-based product that includes extra protein. Packaged in jars, hospitals mostly use Nourimamba to treat severely malnourished children. These jars of sweetened paste also end up in schools as snacks for children.

Dr. Mark Manary founded Project Peanut Butter, an organization in Malawi that helps to feed malnourished children in Sierra Leone, Malawi and Ghana. The organization uses a locally sourced, protein-rich and high caloric peanut butter known as “chiponde” to treat severe malnutrition.

While peanut butter is already a nutritious food, these pastes pack a greater punch in the fight against malnutrition. These products have a long shelf life and require no preparation, making them the ideal snack for undernourished individuals.

Positive Impacts on Poverty

Getting peanut butter into hungry stomachs is the top priority, but in the process, the nut helps uplift developing nations. In addition to addressing malnutrition, these peanut butter products create jobs that can break the cyclical poverty malnourished children are born into.

The Mwayi Wathu Peanut Butter Processing Group, supported by Oxfam and the Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (CADECOM), produces peanuts and peanut butter. This cooperative addresses malnutrition with its products while creating local jobs to stimulate the economy.

Peanuts Reduce Poverty

W. K. Kellogg graciously funded Accesso’s nutritional snack program, which aimed to feed 11 schools in central Haiti. As a result of this initiative, enrollment at the schools increased by 20%. The jobs that the program created allow parents to send their children to school. These families were unable to afford educational endeavors before.

Accesso works with 7,400 local farmers and has tripled the profits of farmers through its agribusiness model. Through this model, farmers strengthened their income and the organization can provide nutritional peanut snacks to more than 4,000 children every single day.

Part of this improved agribusiness model is the spicy peanut butter, Lavi, which holds the promise of opening up new markets for these developing nations. Accesso, the organization that championed the creation of Lavi, aims to expand its business to global markets, especially the United States, where demand for peanuts is high. As the most commonly enjoyed nut by U.S. citizens, more than two-thirds of all nut consumption in the U.S. is peanuts, making it a powerhouse in helping foreign farmers increase their incomes and rise out of poverty.

The benefits of nutritious peanut butter products show how peanuts reduce poverty in developing countries, tackling several concerns at once.

Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

combat extreme hungerIn Kenya, hunger and food security are two of the most dire issues faced by impoverished communities. The locust swarms that plagued countries in the Horn of Africa in 2020, devoured millions of hectares of crops resulting in significant food loss. The incident also served to illuminate the precarious insecurity of the food supply in the region. This gave way for creative solutions to combat extreme hunger in Kenya and other African countries alike.

A Promising Solution

The massive inundation of locusts in regions where food is scarce also served as a concrete reminder of the relative abundance of biomass from insects in Africa. This abundance of biomass from insects presents a promising solution for Kenya — use insects to combat hunger by converting them into food products.

Eating insects has a long history in tropical and subtropical climates due to the large populations of insects. Kenya is no exception. Though locusts were long considered a valuable food source, they should not be eaten now due to the widespread usage of insecticides to curb locust outbreaks. However, other related insects like grasshoppers can be eaten. Countries like Kenya can potentially use insects to combat extreme hunger.

Nutrition

Among the millions of undernourished people in Kenya, lack of protein is the main cause and one of the most important areas to focus on to reduce malnutrition.

According to the Global Hunger Index, 24.2% of people in Kenya were undernourished in 2018. In the same year, roughly 26% of children under the age of 5 had experienced stunted growth due to malnourishment.

Insects are an extremely good source of proteins and essential amino acids. Insects like grasshoppers and locusts contain more protein per ounce than traditional forms of protein like beef, chicken or sheep.

Stable and Efficient Production

The production and harvest of insects for consumption provides a stable and efficient method of food production. It takes only three months for crickets to grow to their fully matured state.

Studies have also shown that insects are as efficient as poultry in converting feed into biomass. In addition, insects can feed on waste byproducts such as manure. Both of these facts mean that insect farmers in Kenya will not need to spend much time or money on providing feed to their insects.

Environmentally Sustainable

The cultivation of insects consumes less water and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than the cultivation of other sources of protein like livestock. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, insect cultivation is believed to be less likely to result in zoonotic infections.

In Kenya, where insects such as termites are already commonly foraged for consumption by humans, the mass production of insects could combat extreme hunger. Insect cultivation has the potential to provide a cheaper, more efficient and stable solution.

More research and development must occur before entrepreneurs and activists in Kenya can roll out products like insect protein powders, cricket-based flour or just plain fried insects to Kenya’s hungry. Nonetheless, the value of insects presents a possible solution that can be considered to combat extreme hunger in Kenya.

Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

5 Things to Know about Feed the Children and Their Work in Haiti
For the last 40 years, Feed the Children has been working toward a hunger-free world by providing resources to those who lack basic necessities. In 2020, Feed the Children has created a substantial impact worldwide and reached countless children and families in need. Most notably, Feed the Children is making a difference in Haiti.

Feed the Children’s Goals

Feed the Children works in Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania to reduce hunger and bolster education. The specific approach in each country varies slightly based on the overwhelming needs of the area. However, the dedication to alleviating food insecurity and teaching self-reliance remains a priority in every community. These impoverished areas desperately need assistance to help build better communities for their children. Feed the Children hopes that its efforts will yield the following four results:

  • Properly nourish children by age 5.
  • Provide all children with clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene resources.
  • Enable all children to receive a high-quality education.
  • Cultivate financially stable families that contribute to their communities.

Successfully Reached over 1.6 Million People

The organization displays its impressive impact in its 2019 Annual Report and shares its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023. While the organization works both in the United States and internationally, its combined impact accounts for 6.3 million people worldwide. In its 10 countries of focus, it has reached 1.6 million people and distributed over 9.4 million pounds of food and essential items; the value of these items total over $31 million. The organization gave school supplies and books to 17,821 international students. Moreover, 228,450 school children now benefit from regular, nutritious meals at school. In its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023, Feed the Children plans on implementing many new initiatives to create an even larger impact in the future. Here are some of its most prominent strategic visions:

  • Expanding its emphasis on child-focused programming to 10% of total resources.
  • Reducing chronic and acute undernutrition in impoverished communities to only 12%.
  • Increasing the percentage of food donations by 8%.
  • Gaining 36% more corporate partners to contribute toward product and service donations, financial gifts and promoting shared values.
  • Increasing overall revenue by 21%.

Intervention in Haitian Natural Disasters

Haiti is both the most impoverished and least developed country in the western hemisphere. The country’s literacy rate is only 61%, which is significantly below the 90% literacy rates among most Latin American and Caribbean countries. Its education expenditures account for only 2.4% of the GDP; these numbers make it apparent that the Haitian commitment to education is staggeringly low. The economy struggles from political instability, natural disasters, disease and mismanagement of humanitarian relief. Frequent hurricanes contribute to the high rates of damage and death seen in Haiti. In 2017, Haiti only collected 10% of its GDP for tourism. This is significantly low compared to its past percentages and the Caribbean states’ average of 15%. These startling statistics caught the attention of Feed the Children and inspired them to extend aid to this struggling nation.

Community Development Programs and Peer-to-Peer Care Groups

The Child-Focused Community Development (CFCD) programs have been making a difference in Haiti through their implementation into 12 different communities. This program teaches children and their families how to prevent malnutrition and reduce poverty through food and nutrition, health and water, education and lifestyle. This training is extremely pertinent to the members of these Haitian communities, as many children suffer from malnutrition. At least 17% of babies are born with low birth weights and 22% of children have stunted growth. Feed the Children hopes that this community development program will save many children from the harmful effects of malnutrition. Through an emphasis on low-cost sanitation initiatives that possess high impact results, families can learn how to address health issues more quickly and prevent disastrous health outcomes.

Additionally, Feed the Children has incorporated peer-to-peer Care Groups in Haitian communities. These groups meet to help educate mothers of young children about nutrition and health. With the ultimate goal of raising healthy children, the peer-to-peer Care Groups teach mothers how to utilize nutritious foods and how to prevent water-borne illnesses through safe cooking.

Positive Results

Not only has Feed the Children been able to give its 12 targeted Haitian communities more food and basic resources, but it also equipped them with the tools they need to build more self-sustaining societies. From the peer-to-peer Care Groups alone, over 1,600 women received training as caregivers who are equipped with extended knowledge on nutrition and safe health practices for their children. Feed the Children also incentivized families to keep their children in school by offering a hot meal three times per week at school. For many families, this school food serves as the only guaranteed meal a child would consume in a day. Therefore, providing these meals for school children both helps keep them from malnourishment and encourages consistent school attendance.

Feed the Children is a great example of an organization that has been making a difference in Haiti and yielding substantial results in the fight against global poverty. With various initiatives spanning 10 nations, countless numbers of vulnerable children and families are learning about how to implement healthy food, water and hygiene habits into their daily lives. Food insecurity and lack of education are huge contributors to poverty; Feed the Children recognizes this and strategically approaches malnutrition and education in a way that cultivates improvements in the lives of the poor.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KenyaKenya is currently home to 46 million people. Over 35% of them suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition each year, with 2.6 million facing a food insecurity crisis. The state of food insecurity in this country is serious, with the country ranking 86 out of 117 countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index. Children are especially at risk, with just under a third of those who are food insecure suffering from stunted growth.  This is one of the many common issues related to hunger and poor nutrition. The rampant hunger in Kenya is a dire situation. However, there are some efforts to fight this crisis.

The Farming Issue

Nearly 75% of Kenyans rely on agriculture for all or part of their incomes. The industry makes up about a third of the Kenyan economy, but only one-fifth of the land in Kenya is suitable for farming. A lack of reliable irrigation forces farmers to rely on rain as their primary water source. Reliance on nature makes planting and harvesting unpredictable and risky. This is combed with the population boom in Kenya over the past 25 years. This has left the food supply limited at best and extremely vulnerable to weather patterns and natural disasters.

Domestic farmers are the main food providers in Kenya. The industry needs a robust workforce to keep up with the heavy demands of an ever-increasing population. However, the younger generation is uninterested in farm work and current farmers are getting too old for the job. Conversely, lack of employment also perpetuates hunger in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans are unemployed or underpaid, and many can’t afford to buy food in the first place. Poor infrastructure and high domestic taxes levied on farmers for transporting their goods are the cause of such steep food prices. These exorbitant transportation fees leave much of the population hungry.

Despite all of this, the issue of hunger in Kenya has generally improved over the past decades. Further, many organizations continue to battle this crisis and expand food access to the millions of struggling Kenyans.

World Vision

The Christian nonprofit World Vision tackles child poverty and injustice worldwide. The organization first branched out to Kenya in 2017. Upon arrival, World Vision volunteers saw villages suffering from drought and hunger. They noticed people eating animals like hyenas and vultures while others mourning the loss of their livestock, the remains of which were everywhere.

In the first year of its project, World Vision reached 3.5 million individuals. The organization was able to provide clean water, health care, and nutritional support. World Vision knows that hunger in Kenya is far from solved and doesn’t plan on stopping its efforts. The nonprofit has hope in expanding water and nutrition access as a way to help alleviate the suffering in this country.

Action Against Hunger

The “world’s hunger specialist,” Action Against Hunger, is a nonprofit working to end hunger with our lifetime. It provides global aid to children and families to treat and prevent malnutrition. The organization has worked in Kenya since 2002.

Its work has included implementing programs on health, water, sanitation, refugees, and childcare. The nonprofit has been able to expand access to health treatments, screenings, and services for those suffering from malnutrition. It also supported thousands of herders by providing livestock vaccinations and training animal health experts.

In 2019, the organization reached over 1.9 million people with its nutrition and health programs and nearly 50,000 people with its water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives. Additionally, it aided over 40,000 people with its food security and livelihood programs. This all added up to over two million people in 2019 alone, a huge effort for a team of only 43 employees.

Conclusion

Hunger in Kenya is a severe issue that has cost the lives and livelihoods of millions of individuals and families. Children are at severe risk of malnutrition and related diseases, while the farming industry is struggling to provide even a portion of the country’s necessary food supply. Aggressive and comprehensive government or international intervention to shore up farmers and expand their capacity to produce are absent. It is organizations like World Vision and Action Against Hunger that have to pick up the slack. Fortunately, they have been able to reach and save the lives of millions of Kenyans. The issue lives on, but the efforts of nonprofits continue to provide hope.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

GM golden riceRice is a staple crop in Asia that provides 30-72% of the energy intake in the region. Many children in these countries rely on meager amounts of rice and almost nothing else. Enter genetically modified (GM) rice. GM golden rice is a revolutionary modified rice crop, characterized by its golden color and vitamin A fortification. This biofortified crop works to alleviate the issue of malnutrition in Asia, especially among children.

Vitamin A

In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, there is a vitamin A deficiency problem. Annually, vitamin A deficiency results in the death of several million children and blindness in 250,000, according to a study done by WHO. Half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

GM golden rice allows for beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor) synthesis in the edible portion of rice. This process may prove to be a promising remedy to this widespread vitamin deficiency. The body can actually use beta-carotene in the edible portion of rice, rather than the rice’s leaves. Not only is it usable, but it can supply 30% to 50% of a person’s daily vitamin A requirement.

Other Benefits

Besides the nutritional benefit, GM golden rice also lasts longer than its non-GM counterparts. A Purdue University researcher found that some GM foods have an increased shelf life by a week longer than it would have originally. Foods that can stay fresher longer help impoverished regions store food and aid food distribution across long periods of time.  

Furthermore, modified foods, like GM golden rice, are routinely screened for safety. Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association, stated that before anything may be imported into Europe and used as animal feed or as an ingredient in food for humans, it had to travel through a security approval process.

In addition, the two genes inserted into GM golden rice, plant phytoene synthase and bacterial phytoene desaturase, are innocuous to the human body. Further, Dr. Russesll Reinke, IRR Program Lead for Healthier Rice,  stated that test trials in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. found this rice to be safe for consumption.

Conclusion

As technology rapidly evolves, people will have reservations about the unfamiliar processes involved. However, GM golden rice has continued to be a proven and effective supplement for adequate nutrition. With new technological solutions, like GM golden rice, food shortages can continue to decrease.

Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Alimenta la SolidaridadVenezuela has a convoluted political, economic and social situation. The present humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has placed the country in fourth for the largest food crisis in the world. The nonprofit organization  Alimenta la Solidaridad (Feed Solidarity) chooses to tackle this issue head-on.

The Situation in Venezuela

According to the World Food Program, one in every three Venezuelans require food assistance. Venezuela’s deteriorating situation has decreased the household’s access to food as well as the purchasing power of the people. In 2019, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans suffered from food insecurity and approximately 9.3 million required immediate food assistance.

The current food dilemma is expected to worsen due to the current economic crisis. Already, the plight has increased childhood malnutrition and starvation. Children in Venezuela rarely obtain vital nutrients for proper growth and adequate cognitive development.

A Nonprofit to the Rescue

Alimenta la Solidaridad was determined to combat the rampant food insecurity in Venezuela. Since 2016, it has provided around 7,508,000 meals to Venezuelan children in need. The program started mainly in Distrito Capital, the capital’s state, but it has gradually expanded nationwide. It now operates in 14 additional states, has a total of 188 dining rooms across the national territory and gives food assistance to over 14,000 children.

The nonprofit recognizes the necessity to contribute their part to society. Alimenta la Solidaridad aims to find sustainable solutions to the food-related challenges that plague many low-income Venezuelan families. This organization works exhaustively to soften the effect of the nutritional deficiencies that many children in this program possess.

How Alimenta la Solidaridad Works

Alimenta la Solidaridad operates through donors with the help of mothers and fathers from the communities. The nonprofit gathers people willing to share their home to provide the space for community kitchens. Volunteers cook, organize the children, clean and manage the daily operations of this effort. The organization is “more than a plate of food.” When people with Alimenta la Solidaridad get together, they create a place of transformation.  Sometimes, they create activities that turn into opportunities for the development and empowerment of children. Mothers in the program also receive growth opportunities.

Alimenta la Solidaridad provides training courses that will empower the mothers. The new skills are then put right back into the organization. These mothers often end up taking one of the most important roles within the organization. They don’t only make the initiative possible, they also teach the children to grow in the values of co-responsibility, involvement and service.

Alimenta la Solidaridad aids the outside communities as well. The initiative contributes to the reduction of criminal indexes within the surrounding areas. Further, the organization promotes community organizations and volunteer work. They uplift these avenues of aid as a way to fulfill their mission of providing daily meals to children with food insecurity in Venezuela.

Hope for the Fight

Despite the painful reality in Venezuela, many efforts across the territory keep trying to find ways to help. Alimenta la Solidaridad is the perfect example of an organization that managed to provide aid despite the bleak circumstances. The nonprofit’s dedication and goodwill has developed a model based on responsibility and empowerment. This method boosts the sense of involvement and amount of voluntary service within Venezuelan communities in need. Food insecurity has met its match with the hopeful spirit of the resilient Venezuelan people.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger InitiativesFood security is a large topic in Africa due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and environmental factors, such as drought. Recently, many South Africans have experienced rapid food shortages. However, various hunger initiatives have taken off during this time.

The Issue

In South Africa alone, four million migrants are at risk of descending into poverty. The number of South Africans currently living in poverty — 40% of the population — is expected to increase within the next five years. Those already in poverty don’t have access to basic medical supplies and other life-saving resources. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these issues further. Many people grapple with economic fallout as a result.

South African women are disproportionately affected by poverty, especially as heads of the households. Around half of female-headed households are below the poverty line as opposed to 33% of male-run households.

Hunger initiatives have proven essential in helping vulnerable groups like women and children.

Ladles of Love

Many food-based charities have dedicated their efforts to providing meals to those displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. A soup kitchen called Ladles of Love is one such organization. The soup kitchen operates on Seva, the art of selfless service. The soup kitchen volunteers service over 200 meals a week to those in need.

Recently, Ladles of Love was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts providing healthy meals to the poor and hungry. They broke both the South African and the world record for most sandwiches made in an hour. The previous world record was 57,000, and they eclipsed that by making over 68,000 more sandwiches. They also surpassed the South African record by 18,000. As a result of this, they were able to make over 300,000 sandwiches and raise publicity for their cause.

67 Minutes

Ladles of Love is part of the social media movement 67 minutes. The movement, started in memory of Nelson Mandela, emphasizes the importance of making a difference. The 67 minutes campaign encourages people to prioritize helping others for 67 minutes. The number 67 is significant because Nelson Mandela fought for social justice reform in South Africa for 67 years. As such, the campaign uses that number as a baseline for its work. Through social media, Ladles of Love increased publicity for the movement. More people are aware of the severe issue of hunger in South Africa. This will hopefully generate more funding and education about the topic in other parts of the world.

Actions Against Hunger

Organizations like Actions Against Hunger have this world-reach goal in mind. The global nonprofit strives to end hunger and malnutrition within “our lifetime.” The group focuses on both preventative and reactionary measures to help provide food for those in need, especially children and families. Action Against Hunger works to empower people to help themselves rather than rely on their services. They believe education, empowerment and innovation and crush world hunger.

Conclusion

Since quarantine began, many South Africans have struggled to make ends meet. Most people were furloughed from their jobs and left without stable sources of income. Furthermore, the pandemic has impacted students especially hard. The government suspended their nutrition program, and they can no longer get steady meals. Despite this, the government has attempted to rectify the situation by providing over one million food packages for residents and constituents.

Many South Africans struggle to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, changing weather patterns and rising poverty levels. Ladles of Love, the 67 minutes campaign and Action Against Hunger provide support for them. These organizations and other hunger initiatives work tirelessly to alleviate food insecurity among the poor population.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr