How Can We Do More to Help Children in the Classroom?

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving

When I was a student, I remember sitting in the front of the class, eager and ready to learn. At the beginning of every school year, I was armed with my No. 2 pencils, pens, and wide-ruled paper.

As a child, I never thought about other kids not having access to the materials needed for class. How can a student be properly engaged without a pen, pencil or paper? Will they be able to participate in the lessons, or will they just daydream? Would they daydream about a prosperous future that’s not achievable without a good education? Would they dream about never being bullied again for being “different” than the other kids who have school supplies?

If you’re hungry, homeless or without life’s essentials, your dreams may be different. I want kids to dream big, and with an education, they can create a path for success. If they have the right tools to succeed in the classroom, their good grades and participation can open the door to infinite possibilities.

In December 2016, the Hunger and Homelessness Survey stated Washington D.C. has 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. Nationwide, the rate of homelessness is about 17 per 10,000 people.

When it comes to school-aged children, there are about 3,551 homeless students in Washington D.C. alone. How can we empower the students in our community? How can we give them the materials they need for success? They are the next generation and they deserve the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and to excel.

Can you join our dream? Feed the Children would like your help to make sure all children in the Washington D.C. area have a backpack to achieve their dreams. Our backpacks are filled with school supplies, hygiene items and healthy snacks  – all for the cost of only $20.

On June 8, we will participate in United Way’s campaign called Do More 24. It’s a 24-hour online fundraiser to help the 1,500 homeless kids in DC. Please join us by logging on to make an investment in the life of a child.

Visit the Feed the Children page on the Do More 24 website for more information http://domore24.org/npos/feed-the-children.

 

Why I Volunteer: Brenna’s Experience in Nicaragua

Written by Brenna Murphy, Feed the Children Volunteer

Nicaragua is an experience that had an immense impact on my life and the lives of so many others. I have always been very fond of Mother Teresa’s quote, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that single drop.” My experience in Nicaragua really put this quote into perspective. I am beyond elated to be a drop in the ocean for the people of El Crucero, El Callao and any other community members we may have touched. I love the concept that although we may look different and speak different languages, we are all one. Across the world, there is love deep seated in the human heart, and I certainly experienced this in my short week in Nicaragua.

Since I have never traveled out of the country, I had no idea what to expect. When we finally landed, we took a big breath of the warm Nicaraguan air and enjoyed the ever-present friendliness. Throughout the week, I came to know Nicaragua as a home, and I think it will stay that way in my heart. The relationships I built during this trip has a special place in my heart, and I wish we could have stayed longer.

My sponsored child is a six-year-old girl named Ingrid. She has a fervor for life and a beautiful soul. A group of us had our sponsored child visits one day, so we hopped in the back of the truck and made our way down the dirt roads past the school we had been working with in El Callao. Her home was the second stop of the afternoon and I was so excited to meet her. After a short walk, I saw her past a fence of small palm-type trees. She stood there with one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen and immediately gave me a tight hug. Her mother was there to invite me into their home for a tour. Her home was no bigger than my dorm room and was comprised of a tin-like material on the outside with the base of the home comprised of wood. In the small room where we sat, there were dirt floors, a few chairs, and a shelf where Ingrid’s pet bird hopped around.

As I sat with Ingrid, I noticed her mood was affected by the commotion of six people in this small room. She immediately became shy and withdrawn. However, when everyone but her mother left the room, she let her guard down. During our time coloring in the Dora the Explorer book I brought her, I colored Dora’s eyes on one page green, and on the opposite page I colored them brown. I said, “Look she has green eyes like me and brown eyes like you!”  She smiled very big at the realization. I was so happy to have been able to experience such a short, but profound, set of moments with her and I loved knowing that she felt comfortable enough to open up to me. Just recently, I came home to a letter from Ingrid and I was beyond thrilled to see that she had written me back! She said, “We all truly thank you and may God bless you. I love you so much. You have no idea how happy you made me.” I hope to stay in contact with Ingrid for the years to come. The blessing of having a sponsored child is something I will carry with me for life.

 

There are many more stories like Brenna’s. Tag us on social media and use #WhyIVolunteer to tell us what inspires you to volunteer.

 

Oklahoma City Bombing: A Personal Reflection on a National Tragedy

Written by Pete Allen, Videographer for Feed the Children

Things sometimes affect us in ways we can never really predict. On April 19, 1995, I was in Durant, Oklahoma helping a food pantry give away a truckload of Feed the Children food boxes. With almost four years under my belt, I was a veteran of Feed the Children and I must admit I really loved my work.

Previously, I had been a television news man for the better part of a decade.The one thing I can tell you is the news business can make you a cynic.  I believed in nothing and I trusted little. And then one day by chance, I was watching television when I saw something that made me realize I needed a change. It was a Kodak commercial. Yes, a thirty second bit hawking the virtues of using that little yellow can of film in your camera. In the commercial, there was a father dancing with his daughter just after her wedding. There, in slow motion, was the culmination of a man’s hopes for his child; a happy life and Kodak 100 speed color film, 36 exposures. I remember sitting on the couch and thinking an ordinary person would be touched by such a thing but I felt nothing. It was in that exact moment I knew I had to make a change.  In just a few short weeks, I found myself at the door of Feed the Children and my twenty-six year odyssey as a humanitarian would begin.

I’m a photographer by title but working for FEED is really much, much more than just a job. It’s a way to help make the world a little better place by helping moms, dads and children who are facing hard times. During those four short years before the Oklahoma City Bombing, I had traveled all across our great country and around the world. Through my work of documenting desperation and hope in ordinary people, I had found that part of myself I had lost; my compassion for my fellow man. I had seen the results of disaster and poverty. I witnessed the uplifting of children and the generosity of people. But on April 19, 1995, I witnessed something very different. I witnessed the very worst and the very best of my fellow human beings. And to this day, it affects me.

I had been out visiting a family that morning. They were in the midst of a family crisis and were having difficulty putting three square meals on the table for their children. Fortunately, I was working for a company that just so happened to provide food to the food pantry in Durant. Funny how life works. After a very nice social moment with the family where we were able to give them a helping hand I drove back to the food pantry. When I got there the pantry operator was very upset. We went to her office and there was a small television on her desk and on it was the smoking image of a building torn apart. I couldn’t believe what I saw. My first thought was it must have been a gas explosion. Then I learned along with the rest of our state and our country just how devastating that smoking pile of rubble was. The people we lost. The children we lost. I say we because I believe we as a country collectively wept that day right alongside the mothers, and fathers and loved ones of those killed in that terrible moment.

As I drove back to the city I was struck by something so simple; headlights. Not wanting to sound like an old man but way back then headlights on most cars were something you had to turn on and off manually. It was a more analog world. Mile after mile, I passed oncoming cars with their headlights on. It was like I was witnessing the longest funeral procession in history and I suppose I was. After getting back to the office, I was immediately thrown into the work of bringing whatever help Feed the Children could bring in whatever way we could. We brought food, clothing, and personal care supplies for the emergency teams from as far away as California who had dropped everything and come to our city to help us. We even had dog food and bowls for the rescue dogs. If something was needed we did our level best to get it for them. I remember we found and flew in a portable pneumatic re-bar cutter because the rescue team needed it to cut apart the remains of the building without using cutting torches. Gloves, shovels, kneepads and a thousand other things. Tooth brushes, undergarments and work boots were just a tiny fraction of the things the brave rescue persons needed when they left everything behind and came rushing from all corners of the country to save lives. I worked on site everyday alongside my fellow Feed the Children team members doing what we could to provide comfort to the emergency personnel. It was an awful time. It was an uplifting time. Just being there watching those men and women struggle to find just one sign of life was heart wrenching. In the weeks and months afterwards we continued our work. We helped the families of those left behind. We cried with them and supported them in their grief. We got to know them personally and they became friends. Our work continued for several years after as the harshness of that day slowly began to soften.

Then, the Oklahoma City National Memorial opened. I have tried several times to go and see the memorial but I have never been able to walk through it completely. I have abandoned the idea of viewing it all. The memories of that day are still too strong within me to allow it.

Things sometimes affect us in ways  we can never really predict. For me, it was a silly commercial about a roll of film that led me to a job where I could be part of a team that brings help and compassion to the world. And sometimes, it lets me bring help and compassion to my neighbors.

Why I Volunteer: Erin’s Nicaragua Trip Reflection

Written by Erin O’Neill, Feed the Children Volunteer      

My week spent in Nicaragua felt surreal, like when you are having a dream you never want to wake up from. We spent most days in El Crucero. My group worked on a variety of projects that included building a fence, teaching the parents the Heimlich maneuver, baking, gardening, farming, and so much more. However, the most important thing we accomplished was connecting with the people in the communities. They had so much knowledge to offer us, and getting to share stories about our different cultures was a unique experience that I’ll never forget.

At the beginning of the week, my group was given a challenge: build relationships with the people in the community. This task intimidated me much more than I would like to admit. I knew we would have a translator with us, but there were 14 of us in the group and I had never taken a Spanish class in my life. Half of the time, I forgot there was a language barrier. They knew our Spanish was not the best, and we knew their English would not be the easiest to understand. However, they did not let that stop them from engaging with us, which brought me comfort.

I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to accurately put into words how truly amazing the week I spent in Nicaragua was. I’m still searching for those words. In those seven days, I felt something I have never felt before. Every single member of the community in El Crucero community opened their hearts, minds, and homes to us. They were incredibly accepting, and they constantly reminded us how grateful they were for our work. They did not let their lack of material items hinder them from dreaming big, which was especially true for my sponsored child.

Initially, I was incredibly nervous about meeting my sponsored child.   Little did I know, meeting him was going to be the best experience of my life. When I got to his house, I was taken aback. It was small and made of wooden boards. The only thing that hung on the walls were pictures of his family. The only light that was present came from the sun. Despite the surrounding environment and my original fears, this child was the perfect match for me.

When we went inside to have a conversation, I asked him about school. He made a face that told me something wasn’t right. His mother informed me that he had hydrocephalus and had to be taken out of school because the activity was too much for him to handle. He told me that he had surgery two months prior to help drain the excess fluid from his brain and he hopes to return to school soon. I started to tear up because I faced something similar two years ago. My heart is smaller than the average person’s and beats at a fast, irregular pace. I told him how I had to give up many things and had surgery to help fix it. I let him know that even though it took some time, I’m back on my feet doing the things I love again. After hearing that, he smiled super wide. He said that when he grows up, he wants to be a doctor so he can help others, the same way people helped him. I still cry every time I think about that conversation. It amazed me how selfless he is. A young boy, living in poverty, wants to be one of the most respected and regarded professions in the world, and I know he will not let anything get in his way of achieving that goal.

Since I’ve returned, everyone asks me the same question, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” It’s not about the best moment, it is a collection of the relationships I built with the community. There is not a singular memory that stands out, but a continual lesson that I learned: trust. Each person trusted us with their equipment, children, land, animals, crops, etc. They trusted us with their personal experiences, hopes, and opinions. Most importantly, they trusted as strangers. We came onto their territory knowing minimal details about their culture and work, but they welcomed us with open arms. They taught me a lesson in trusting and accepting others without judgement, and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Corporate Matching Gifts Matter

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving; Juli Marino, Development Operations Supervisor 

 

What’s better than feeding one child? Feeding two children.

What’s better than providing a backpack for one homeless child? Providing two backpacks for two homeless children.

Companies that match employee donations are helping Feed the Children to do just that!

In fiscal year 2016, we raised more than $340,000 from matching gifts. This quarter, Feed the Children would like to thank American Express for helping us double our impact by raising nearly $7,000 through its corporate matching-gift program.

We appreciate donors who take the extra step to help another child. Find out if your company will double or triple your donation with a corporate matching gift. Once your matching-gift request is submitted, we will follow up on your behalf!

Your donations and volunteer work help children, both domestically and internationally, to receive the food and essentials they need. For every dollar you give, you’re really giving two dollars.

Your contributions help children like Molly. Molly knows what it feels like to go to bed hungry, which is a feeling no child should experience. “When we run out of food, it makes my heart very sad and it makes me cry.” You can read more of Molly’s story here.

Here’s how to make a difference in the lives of children who are like Molly.

Payroll Deductions

Donating through your employer’s payroll-deduction program is a simple way to help children in need and their families. This benefit is very fulfilling and you won’t even feel the pinch from your paycheck. Yet, at the end of the year, every penny is tax deductible and can make a big difference in your annual IRS tax filing.

Single Matching Gifts

Current and new donors can do more by simply sending in a matching-gift request to your employer. A small effort can equal big results. Donors go through three easy steps to submit matching gifts:

  1. Make a donation through check or credit card directly to Feed the Children.
  2. Determine if your employer or your spouse’s employer offers a matching-gift program.
  3. Locate and submit the appropriate matching-gift form, or register the gift through your employer’s gift website.

Matching gifts give employees a voice about where their employer spends its corporate giving dollars.

More than 65% of Fortune 500 companies, and countless smaller employers, offer matching-gift programs. You can immediately evaluate your eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about your employer by searching Feed the Children’s database of companies with matching-gift programs.

Need more information? Send an email to workplace.giving@feedthechildren.org and we’ll work to help you double your impact.

A Season of Celebration

As the start of another Christmas season begins, it is often welcomed with mixed emotions of reflection from the year that we are about to put behind us. For me, this Christmas will be our daughter’s first Christmas with our family following the completion of her Ethiopia adoption just a few months ago! Unfortunately, this will also be our first Christmas without my Grandmother who went to be with Jesus this past May. Joy and pain, all colliding into one season of remembrance and celebration.

 

When I think about the first Christmas, I am reminded of how Jesus’ birth was cause for amazing celebration during a time of tremendous struggle. Have you ever considered how Jesus was born into poverty while his birth family was traveling as refugees? A stark contrast to my childhood memories of running down the stairs on Christmas morning to a warm, fire-lit living room filled with presents, food, and cheerful music playing…

 

But we celebrate not because of the condition in which Jesus was born into, but because of the world that He dreamed was possible through His Church. A dream in which no child goes to bed hungry.

 

This Christmas, Feed The Children’s artist program is partnering with the biggest names in the music industry to help inspire generosity in the season of giving through child sponsorship! Our goal: Let kids be kids! We want to be a part of building a world where children are empowered to grow, learn, dream, explore, wonder, and thrive! What if this Christmas, you and your family added another “first” to your list? What if the Christmas of 2015 will be remembered as the Christmas in which you sponsored a child at one of your favorite concerts? Join us on the Newsong Christmas Tour and The K-Love Christmas Tour this December to witness some of the best Christmas tours on the road and to hear about the great work that Feed The Children is able to accomplish because of faithful givers like you.

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Newsong Christmas (Newsong, Building 429, Plumb, Reno) 

12.2 – Marietta, GA

12.3 – Charleston, SC

12.4 – Kinston, NC

12.6 – Whiteville, NC

12.6 – Warner Robbins, GA

12.8 – Marion, IL

12.10 – Panama City, FL

12.11 – Pascagoula, MS

12.12 – Tallahassee, FL

12.13 – Woodstock, GA

12.14 – Port St. Lucie, FL

12.17 – Greenville, TN

12.18 – Kernersville, NC

12.19 – Fort Mill, SC

12.20 – Lakeland, FL

 

K-Love Christmas (Tenth Avenue North, Natalie Grant, Sidewalk Prophets, Danny Gokey) 

12.3 – Indianapolis, IN

12.4 – Pittsburgh, PA

12.5 – Reading, PA

12.6 – Stamford, CT

12.8 – Charlotte, NC

12.10 – Chicago, IL

12.11 – Lexington, KY

12.12 – Kansas City, MO

12.13 – Denver, CO

12.15 – Phoenix, AZ

12.16 – Albuquerque, NM

12.17 – Oklahoma City, OK

12.18 – Baton Rouge, LA

12.19 – Little Rock, AR

12.20 – San Antonio, TX

 

*All dates / cities subject to change without notice. Please refer to the artist’s website for the most up-to-date concert and ticketing information.

 

Merry Christmas!

Bringing Hope to Nicaragua, Thanks to TOMS– One Foot at Time

We love when our partners get the opportunity to travel to the field to see how their contributions are changing lives.

 Recently, Morgan Loomis, our Director of International Partnerships traveled to Nicaragua with a delegation from TOMS—a committed partner of ours that provides new shoes to kids within our programs.

Morgan shared plenty upon her return.

Recently, Feed the Children hosted a Giving Trip in Nicaragua for a group from TOMS.

TOMS is in business to improve lives and wants to ensure their own team has the opportunity to experience this first-hand and see the impact their work is making.

I, along with local Feed the Children staff and the group from TOMS, spent a week in the field visiting communities and learning about our programs and 4-Pillar approach to development: Food and Nutrition, Water Sanitation and Health, Education, and Livelihoods.

Throughout the week, we delivered TOMS giving shoes, served meals, met with teachers and community leaders, and spent time playing with the children.

Though it was rainy season and extremely hot, I was so proud of how beautifully the TOMS staff interacted with the kids and community leaders we met during our journey. Everyone was so excited to see the work for themselves—through their eyes.

For me, personally, I loved the opportunity to interact with the hard working members of our field staff on the ground in Nicaragua. Our field teams are incredibly dedicated to our mission, but sometimes in the US we don’t truly understand all they do as they travel great distances every week to champion children in schools and at community centers. In Nicaragua alone, we feed nutritious meals to over 1,900 children in 20 communities and deliver school supplies to 1,200 students in 14 communities.

We met children in better health, doing better in school and with much hope for their futures. In community after community, teachers shared personal stories of the impact that they have seen on the children who receive TOMS and the glowing feedback they have received from parents.

Our team truly felt the joy of the children as we laughed and played with them. They love TOMS and Feed the Children for bringing shoes and the “shoemaking” team to them.

The visit gave the children an opportunity to meet TOMS staffers and make a personal connection to the individuals that support them.  This personal link is almost as important as the shoes themselves, because it truly makes the children realize someone truly cares and supports them.

We felt overwhelmed by the generous hospitality of the kids’ songs, poems and dances. Parents shared with our team later, how much the kids enjoyed playing games with the travelers and how special the visit made them feel.

TOMS groupOn our last day, the group spent the morning at Feed the Children’s Productive Training Center in El Crucero, delivering TOMS to children and visiting with the mothers. At the center, mothers are taught livelihood skills, such as training in vegetable production, baking, tailoring and poultry management. These skills not only allow them to provide food for their children, but are also an alternative income generation resource they can use to support their families in other ways.

Before we left, the volunteer moms surprised the team with a TOMS cake and expressed gratitude for their support. How cool was this!

TOMS cakeI came home thankful for TOMS and the privilege of working with the wonderful donors that support Feed the Children’s international programs.

Truly, one child, one pair of shoes at a time, we are impacting kids’ lives forever in Nicaragua, and around the world!

I’m Running to Defeat Hunger

I am doing something that I thought I’d never do. On January 23rd, I will be running my first ever marathon!

When I first learned that Feed the Children was the benefiting charity of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in New Orleans this month, I made the commitment to run a full marathon on behalf of the children we serve.

MK2022 Employee Swag Day Aug 2014 PAllen (15)I am 46 years old and prior to this experience have never considered myself much of a runner (though I have played other sports).

In fact, it had been several years prior to my current marathon training that I had even put on a pair of running shoes with the intent of running in them. The longest distance I had ever run prior to my commitment was 6 miles and that was a lifetime ago.

Number one question that my friends and family have asked over the last couple of months has been is this difficult? Absolutely!

In order to run 26.2 miles you have to train for months.  Marathon training requires a lot of time, dedication and hard work. You have to be prepared to run in all kinds of conditions, the heat, the cold, rain and snow. Adding to the difficulty I experienced a fairly significant groin injury, had cortisone shots in both knees, and had muscle soreness like I have never experienced before, even during all my years of sports.

But, do the hardships that I have faced in my training compare to those faced by the children we serve each and every day?

Absolutely not! I accepted this challenge because I want to do my part to raise awareness on the issues of hunger.

Our vision of “no child going to bed hungry” will not happen on its own.

It will take each and every one of us to take a stand, make a commitment and unite together to defeat hunger.

As a father of four children, I cannot imagine my children having to worry about when or if they will eat again. Every child deserves to experience the awesomeness that goes along with being a kid and should never have to spend one second worrying about their next meal.

The fact that nearly 16 million children in our own country live in a food-insecure household is simply unacceptable to me. New Orleans is no exception with 1 in 6 people facing hunger issues on a daily basis. Yet, I believe the awareness we are bringing to hunger in New Orleans can change this!

What can you do to help Feed the Children realize our vision of no child going to bed hungry? Join Team Feed the Children as we run to end childhood hunger and make our miles meaningful.  Join us or donate toward our efforts on our website.

Chris is the Senior Director of Corporate Donor Relations at Feed the Children.

Advocating for Children at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition

I’m honored to represent Feed the Children at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and at the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Pre-Conference this week in Rome, Italy. I’m joining 10 Ministers (e.g., Ministers of Health, Ministers of Agriculture) and representatives from 160 governments there.  The last ICN was held 22 years ago to urge governments around the world to commit to very specific actions designed to improve nutrition, both in the Global North and Global South (these terms are the preferred way to refer to what we used to call the Developed and Developing world or First/Third-world).

This week, I will be advocating for three things I believe to be essential in order to improve the nutritional status of children around the world. (To understand terms we use when discussing hunger and nutrition, check out this infographic and post).

1. The need for prioritization

Right now, the framework for action being promoted at ICN2 contains a list of 60 policy and program options. We need to prioritize the options on this list if we expect measurable improvements in child nutrition.

One of the reasons that UNICEF’s child survival revolution was so successful in lowering child deaths is that they prioritized. They agreed to focus first on four specific actions, or interventions (referred to by the acronym GOBI – Growth monitoring, Oral rehydration, Breastfeeding, and Immunization).

This is more difficult to do in nutrition, but it’s still possible. I believe that in developing countries at least, we could (and should) focus on promoting three things : Essential Nutrition Actions, Essential Hygiene Actions, and women’s empowerment.  This is entirely doable. I have also suggested language changes in the CSO Vision Statement about the importance of water interventions (e.g. purification) and improved sanitation which can improve child nutritional status, and those changes have now been incorporated into the document.

Our Chief Program Officer Tom Davis at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition  with nutrition leaders from CARE (Bethann Cottrell, left) and Catholic Relief Services (Mary Hennigan, right)
Our Chief Program Officer Tom Davis at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition with nutrition leaders from CARE (Bethann Cottrell, left) and Catholic Relief Services (Mary Hennigan, right)

2. The need for research

No nutrition program/project conducted at scale (e.g. with 1 million or more beneficiaries) in a developing country has come close to normalizing child growth. We still need more research, and formative research (e.g. Barrier Analysis), but there has been little discussion here about the need for that. In spite of everything we throw at it, malnutrition remains a problem and any reductions are often much less than 50% in 4-5 year projects.  That shows us that some of what we need to be doing is not being done, even when funding is available.

An example of the sort of interventions we may need:

  1. Reduce maternal depression.  One study by Pamela Surkan found that we could potentially reduce stunting by about 19-23% through elimination of maternal depression, and a randomized trial has been done that shows that depression can be reduced 93% at low cost in a developing country.
  2. Eliminate open defecation (when people don’t properly dispose of human waste, it contaminates their water and soil and sickens their children). In many countries, this is a huge problem, and it’s one of the main causes that we see so much stunting in children in Asia despite the number of calories that they take in. When children live in a dirty environment, their immune systems are chronically activated, and they don’t absorb the foods that they eat as well. We know that is a large underlying cause of stunting. Learn more here. To see the sanitation conditions many children face around the world, look at these photos curated by photographers from Panos Pictures and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor for World Toilet Day.) 

For that reason, we need to push countries to conduct more formal and formative research to find what works in reducing malnutrition, and the barriers and enablers to behaviors that we know can reduce malnutrition.

3. Access to nutrition promotion as a right

We need to affirm that access to nutrition promotion is a right in the same way that access to formal education of children is a right.  We know the lives it can save, and how it can decrease malnutrition at low cost, especially through the use of volunteer peer educators (e.g. Care Groups).

Three Hunger Words You Probably Misuse and Don’t Understand

Think about the time you last said that you “loved” a thing in your house like a new mixer or a garage door opener. Or, when you voiced a desire to “collapse” after work when you were just extra tired. Or even when you cried and cried about something that really wasn’t worth tears.

In American culture, we have a tendency to exaggerate how we feel.  We love strong and dramatic metaphors. We use words out of context all the time.

We say our ice cream is awesome and so are our mothers. We say we want to kill someone when we’re just slightly annoyed.  We say we’re starving because we didn’t eat lunch until 3 pm.

We’re all guilty of such contextual language errors.

When we talk about childhood hunger, many of us are  just as guilty of misusing words, or we’re just plain confused. We hear the term food security and wonder, ”Is this about keeping children safe? Or setting security guards around food supplies?” We’re not exactly sure what the difference is between a hungry child and one who is malnourished (though one does seem more severe), or between children who are malnourished and children who are stunted. And if they’re different, are those differences significant?

Feed the Children wants to defeat childhood hunger with advocates like you.  To do this, we’re taking some time to define some of these key terms so we can understand each other better and be better advocates.

Three Hunger Words infographic: malnourished, stunting, hunger
Copyright Feed the Children 2014

Malnutrition

When we think of this word, we often see visions of big bellies and children nearing death. But the term malnourished has a much broader definition.

According to UNICEF’s glossary of terms, a child suffers from “malnutrition” (or is “malnourished”) if his or her diet does not provide enough essential nutrients to grow and remain healthy or if they are unable to fully utilize the food they eat due to illness. (This is also called “undernutrition.”) We can also say a child is malnourished if the child becomes obese from consuming more calories than his or her body can use.

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of about 45 percent of all deaths among children under five in the countries where we work.

Weakened by malnutrition, these children have lower resistance to diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.  Children who are malnourished are much more likely to die from these diseases than children who are not.

Stunting

Most people think stunting is a word that refers to the size or height of a child. Just like malnourished, stunting is a term that covers much more than size.

UNICEF also provides us some guidance here when they say that stunting (or “chronic malnutrition”) can happen to a child if she does not consume enough essential nutrients over a long period of time. Stunting can start before a baby is even born if his/her mother doesn’t eat enough during her pregnancy. It can also start in the first months of life if the mother doesn’t eat well enough while breastfeeding or can’t feed the baby well enough other ways.

If a baby is malnourished for a long period of time, it doesn’t just stunt her physical growth. It can slow down her brain’s development, too. This makes it harder to learn and do well in school later on, and even can make it harder to earn a living as an adult.

Most tragic of all, if the child can’t get sufficient nutrition to stop and reverse the effects of stunting by the time he reaches the age of five, it’s too late. After age five, most of this damage to the child’s body and brain is permanent.

This is why we are focusing more and more on providing good nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. The first 1000 days of a child’s life (from conception to the child’s second birthday) are critical in order for her to grow and thrive throughout her life.

In the countries where we work, between 20% and 45% of children under five are stunted (chronically malnourished). For this reason, Feed the Children, along with the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, host country governments and the international NGO community, are working together to fight stunting. It’s the number one priority for our international food and nutrition work.

Hunger

The word “hunger” can mean different things to different people. We usually think of the feeling we get in the pit of our stomach, a craving, maybe a growl or pain, or when it’s worst, a feeling of lightheadedness.

At Feed the Children, we call a child “hungry” if she can’t get the food she needs, whether that happens for a few days every now and then, once a week, or every day. Children grow so fast that if they have to go without enough of the right kinds of food even just for a day or two, it can slow down their growth and their learning.

So if a child in New Orleans fills up on junk food because fresh veggies are sold too far away from her home, she¹s still “hungry” (even if her tummy doesn’t rumble) because she is not getting enough of the right kinds of food.

Or if a child in Malawi is fed only corn porridge every day to fill up his stomach, he’s still “hungry” because he won’t be able to grow right without the vitamins and minerals he should be getting from vegetables and milk.

That’s why we want to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Hunger means the body isn’t getting something it really needs, and when children are hungry, it’s a big deal.

What hunger words confuse you?