Top Ten of 2016

While most Americans were paying attention to politics, sports, or pop culture in 2016, they may have missed these major events that impacted the poor and hungry around the world and here in the United States:

1. Passage of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) – The legislation, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, allocates over $7 billion to initiatives focusing on small-scale agricultural producers and the nutrition of women and children worldwide. When he signed the legislation in July, President Obama noted that development spending is “one of the smartest investments we can make” for U.S. national security and shared prosperity. FEED supports the GFSA, and its passage was a major victory.

unnamed2. Collapse of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) – Not all hunger news in 2016 was good news. Hopes were high that the House and Senate could reconcile their respective versions of the CNR to replace the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which expired over a year ago. Although the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan CNR, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he was unable to find common ground with House colleagues and minority members of the Senate to advance the bill. A major stumbling block was a provision in the House bill that would have created a block-grant pilot program in three states. The program would cut funds for school meal programs and abolish critical federal mandates, such as eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price school lunches and nutrition standards. FEED strongly opposed these elements of the House bill.

3. Passage of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act – This long-sought piece of legislation was first introduced over five years ago, but was finally signed by President Obama in July. It requires government agencies to closely monitor and evaluate foreign-aid programs based on their outcomes, and to improve transparency by posting data about the effectiveness of programs on foreignassistance.gov. Its unanimous approval in both the House and Senate is credited to a committed group of bipartisan sponsors.

4. Hurricane Matthew and cholera outbreak in Haiti – Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti in October. Recovery efforts have been hampered by poor infrastructure that predated the hurricane, and by an ongoing cholera epidemic for which the UN has taken partial responsibility. The cholera epidemic, which was triggered after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake in 2010, has been further exacerbated by the poor conditions following Hurricane Matthew.

5. Endemic measles is eradicated from the Americas – The World Health Organization declared in September that no one had been infected with measles in the Americas for a full year, meaning the virus is no longer endemic in North and South America. Despite a measles outbreak last year that spread to 667 people in 27 U.S. states, the western hemisphere has not suffered an endemic case of measles since 2002.

6. War and refugees – Unfortunately, 2016 saw the continuation of violent conflicts that drove masses of refugees from Syria and Yemen. The U.S. reached its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, and has now accepted over 12,000 Syrian refugees since the civil war began in 2011. Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict in Yemen (between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition supporting the ousted government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi) has driven the largest food-security emergency in the world. Between 7 and 10 million people are in “Crisis” (IPC Phase 3 or worse), and require immediate humanitarian assistance. At least 2 million of this total are in “Emergency” (IPC Phase 4), and are at increased risk of mortality. FEED is part of a group of 18 concerned nongovernmental organizations providing food and supplies to 12,000 Syrian refugees, two-thirds of whom are women and children.

See here.

Women carry pails of water drawn from a borehole at Chimbuli Village, Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa District, Central Malawi, October 9, 2014. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA
Women carry pails of water drawn from a borehole at Chimbuli Village, Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa District, Central Malawi, October 9, 2014. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA

7. El Niño drives food insecurity in Southern Africa – The strongest El Niño weather event since 1982 caused an increase in drought and heat waves across much of the world, but especially in southern Africa. Over 50 million Africans are now considered food insecure. Pervasive drought conditions have devastated the agriculture sector, which employs 80 percent of the working population in Malawi. FEED delivers food aid to over 80,000 Malawian children in 847 centers each day, provides water-purification packages, awards scholarships to help students finish high school, and organizes village savings and loan programs to help impoverished rural communities save and invest in small businesses.

unnamed-28. Ebola outbreak ends – The World Health Organization declared the epidemic over in June 2016, representing a major victory for public health officials and the NGO community. FEED and its partners in Liberia and Kenya created networks of trained Care Group Volunteers to teach public health practices, including hand washing with soap, water purification, and avoiding sick or dead animals. The volunteers also assisted communities in recognizing symptoms of the virus, and dispelling false beliefs about how the virus spreads. See here.

9. The rise and fall of Zika – Zika was declared a global health emergency in February, which precipitated massive global action against the disease: 1) the World Bank committed $150 million to combat the virus; 2) the Bank also established the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to quickly mobilize funds to address global disease outbreaks; 3) the Obama Administration issued a “private sector call to action” to unlock vaccines, point-of- care diagnostics, and new mosquito-control options; and 4) a coalition of governments and philanthropies, most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed $18 million to widely implement a new form of vector control. Following such efforts, the crisis was declared over in November.

10. Number of food-insecure households in the U.S. is decreasing – The USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its most recent “Household Food Security in the United States” report in September. The report found that as of 2015 there were 15.8 million food-insecure households in the U.S.—12.7% of all households. While an improvement from the 14% of food-insecure families in 2014, there are still many households that are unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Meanwhile, the number of people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as spending on the program, has been significantly reduced because of the reintroduction of certain restrictions for childless adults, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Hunger in America: The Children Need Your Voice

By John Ricketts

Tuesday, June 23, is National Call-In Day, a day set aside for people to call their congressional representatives and ask them to support federal school meal and child- nutrition programs. Hunger organizations across the country are working together to make this call-in day a success. Here’s why this initiative is so important to our work:

Prior to my work at Feed the Children, I served as a youth pastor for over 8 years and since 2010, I have led Feed the Children’s disaster-relief work. Two years ago, I was assigned to lead a new program at Feed the Children—the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides summer meals to food-insecure children. These children normally receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but over the summer, many of them are left without access to regular meals. I am proud to lead a team that now sponsors 58 sites where we serve 1,800 – 2,000 meals a day to children during the summer.

Summer meals sites are frequently held at libraries, camps, churches, or schools. While kids receive a meal at a site, they can also stay active and continue learning with the books, school supplies, backpacks, and sports supplies that Feed the Children provides. On kick-off day, I saw hundreds of enthusiastic kids at these sites. SFSP gives them the opportunity to eat a nutritious meal and stay on track during the summer so that they don’t fall behind when they return to school.

4-2015 TRIP2513 MWC Elementary Distribution SMorgan (52) copySFSP is just one of the ways Feed the Children combats hunger. Our distribution centers provide millions of pounds of food to individuals in all 50 states every year. We have also distributed over 700,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to students. While I love all of the great programs at Feed the Children, our summer program is special to me—not only because I work on it every day, but also because I see the impact of the meals and the mentoring that our sites provide children. This program brings together many stakeholders to improve the lives of some of our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

This type of development effort creates pathways for people to overcome their hardships. Through the support of the community and mentors, hopefully these kids will have brighter futures.

SFSP only works through the combined efforts of the public and private sphere. Nonprofits can create effective programs to reach the people in need, but the scale of the problem is so large that funding is often a challenge. Federal resources flowing through faith and community institutions lead to more kids being fed and mentored every day. By investing in our children and those in need, we can become a healthier and more productive nation.

While we have made great strides to improve children’s access to meals, we continue to face challenges. Because Oklahoma is largely a rural state, many students do not have transportation to the meal sites. The mandatory congregate rule requires that children eat the meal together in a certain location. In urban settings, I have witnessed parents instructing their children not to come out of their homes or apartment complexes to participate due to safety concerns, and therefore the congregate feeding rule prevents some children from having access to summer meals. Changing the requirement would help programs across the country reach more kids.

While we would hope that this issue would be nonpartisan, the political climate has made the discussion around feeding children politically charged. If Congress could find a way to work together, we could improve these programs to reach more children.

All of us at Feed the Children are working hard to change the tide of poverty and hunger in America. We especially care about making sure every child in America is adequately fed. We urge you to join us in showing support for important programs such as SFSP by calling your representative on June 23. It only takes a few minutes, and we give you a suggested message to use. Your congressional representatives need to hear from you! Here’s how to participate.

How to Free People from the Federal Hunger Safety Net: Feed the Children’s Testimony to Congress

Today in Washington D.C., Feed the Children asked Congress to support multi-sector collaboration. Jonathan Webb, Director, Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testified at a public hearing beginning at 10 a.m. at the Longworth House Office Building. His testimony, “The Role of Nonprofits in Addressing Hunger,” was delivered to the Full Committee on Agriculture as they discussed, “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.”  The complete line-up of speakers is here

Here we offer a summary of his remarks to Congress to keep you informed of Feed the Children’s progress in furthering public-private partnerships to support efforts in identifying, creating and scaling up newer and more effective strategies for ending hunger.

The testimony and recommendations were written by members of our Program Impact Department and Government Relations Department, with input from other Feed the Children staff and are available in their entirety here.


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Jonathan Webb, Director of Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testifying before the House Agriculture Committee.

Today I’m in Washington D.C., offering a “call-to-action” testimony asking Congress to change how our country addresses childhood hunger.

As we know, the public sector can’t do it alone—and the nonprofit community can’t do it alone. Public-private partnerships are the true key to decreasing the number of individuals currently relying on the hunger safety net provided by the federal government.  We know the current safety net is not enough to end hunger in the US, so we are promoting solutions to ensure that fewer Americans will need that safety net.

We are offering three recommendations to Congress that will foster innovation, collaboration and improved measurement of results and impact in order to decrease the need for the federal safety net, improve food security and nutrition, and make the safety net more cost-effective.

Student Strong Eye Exam

First, we are recommending that Congress establish a Food Security and Nutrition Social Innovation Fund. This fund could be created from the USDA’s existing resources to foster a stronger network of anti-hunger partners and promote the multi-sector collaboration necessary to yield smart, innovative solutions to hunger.

Such a fund will allow us to break down the walls that often exist between various sectors– community leaders, nonprofits, academics and governments—and have prevented us from looking at the big-picture issues that define hunger.  Leveraging the skill sets from these constituencies will help us collaborate on creative solutions that go deeper than simply increasing access to direct service.  This $370 million fund would help support a formal “community of practice” and innovation grants to help scale-up the most cost-effective program models that can help defeat hunger.

Second, we’re requesting better access to federally funded demonstration projects.  Currently, nonprofits are severely limited in how we combine efforts with the federal government, especially with the difficulty in leveraging USDA grants.

webb post 1Feed the Children is recommending that Congress encourage nonprofits to bid collaboratively for demonstration projects that test new and effective approaches to improving food security and nutrition programs, as well as administering federal nutrition programs. In order to further encourage program innovation among nonprofit organizations, Congress should dedicate increased funding to targeted demonstration projects, and take actions that will permit necessary flexibility in federal nutrition programs.

And third, we recommend federal grant applications from Congress require measurement of results and impact of programs, using standardized food security and nutrition indicators that will help to assess which programs are having the best results.  The federal government—in collaboration with its partners—needs to study, measure and replicate success.

We look forward to the results and next steps that emerge from today’s testimony and Feed the Children’s recommendations.

~

Feed the Children staff pictured in the image above: Kim Baich, Kevin Hagan, Tom Davis, Jonathan Webb, Trevor Moe, and Jayme Cloninger

Rocking and Rolling for Hunger in New Orleans

Last weekend, Feed the Children participated in its first Rock N’ Roll Marathon in New Orleans. Our goals were simple: raise awareness and funds to defeat hunger and have fun doing it! 400 families in the Central City section received food and essential products for the week. Thomas Morstead of the New Orleans Saints served as our team captain. 

We hope this event was just the start of future pursuits for #TeamFeedtheChildren.  Heather Montgomery, a blogger shared her experience being a part of the weekend and we knew you’d be inspired by it. Here’s her story:

This past weekend, not only did I get to run my first post baby half marathon, but I got to meet up with fellow runners and bloggers, and do some good for the city of New Orleans. For those that don’t know, I was born right outside of the city in Metairie, and I grew up about 30 miles away. I still consider it home, as all of my family is still there, so I was excited to give back and help Feed the Children last Saturday. . . . .

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Feed the Children was the benefitting charity for this race, which I was happy to hear. We have been supporters of the charity for years, and it was really great to see them in action in the community. On this day, 400 families were going to be given food, toiletry items, haircuts, lunch, and fro yo! We arrived at the Apex youth center and a line had already formed outside.

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We arrived just in time to throw on some volunteer t-shirts and catch the end of the volunteer meeting.

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Families would go through the inside of the center and then out onto the basketball court where we had boxes of food and such. Whole Foods was there giving away fruit, and we manned the milk station.

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There was a DJ, a lot of amazing volunteers, and…..

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THOMAS MORSTEAD! He is the punter for the New Orleans Saints….and if you know ANYTHING about me, you know I love Saints football. Heck, I stalked Malcolm Jenkins in the New Orleans airport last year so I could get a picture. Thomas does a TON for the city of New Orleans. He is always in the news helping different charities, and it was so great to meet him. He actually took the time to talk to me which was super nice. He and his wife were running the 10k the next day, and he told me he wasn’t in running shape so he hoped a lot of people stopped him along the way so he could get a break! The coolest thing was not once did he “act famous”. He graciously took photos when asked, but I constantly saw him working, carrying boxes, and helping people…and it was awesome.

After my total geek out moment, it was back to work. I moved over to the boxes provided by AVON, helping hand them out to the grateful families.

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It was such an amazing experience getting to give back during a race weekend, and see where the charity money goes. Yes I could have been out on the beautiful day that is was exploring the city or enjoying my first baby free weekend with Bobby, but this was way, way more important, and I am so glad that Rock ‘n Roll made it possible for us to take part. We need to never forget while we are enjoying our racecations and running our miles, that there are families out there thankful just for a quart of milk and a free haircut. It really makes you realize how truly blessed we really are, and how great Rock ‘n Roll is for having a charity for their races!

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Thanks to Larisa for some of the photos!

QOTD: Have you ever helped out at a charity event?

Expanding the Table for Kids this Summer

For the more than 16 million children at risk of going hungry in the United States every day, summer break can be a tough time when it comes to finding a meal. With schools closed, kids on free and reduced lunch can’t count on three square meals a day.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) a federally funded program administered through the USDA office of Food and Nutrition (FNS) currently serves 3.5 million children each summer.

While this number is significant, it also means over 12 million kids aren’t eating lunch every day. The severity of the gap is frightening.

We can do better. We want to expand the table this summer to include more children. More tables need to be set. Many more children must be fed.

And, this is what we know: when government agencies, faith based groups and NGOs band together to support summer food service programs, the story changes. More children eat.

We’ve learned from FNS that Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites almost always organize on a grassroots level. Faith communities hold particular and bring unique value to this process.

Often faith groups host these program sites as part of their summer camps and classes for kids. Lunch is often built into already existing community programming. It’s a win, win for the organization and the children.

IMG_5506And so, to bolster these efforts, Feed the Children needs your help. We’d like to chat with you about how we can encourage more groups, in particular faith groups, to become a part of the Summer Food Service program.

Though it is only January, the time to organize is now. So that in June, more kids can count on three squares.

Tomorrow FNS will host a free webinar called, “Summer Meals: Engaging Faith Based and Neighborhood Groups.” If you’d like to join in the conversation with some thought leaders like Melissa Rogers, the Special Assistant to the President, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith Based Partnerships, here’s more information.

And, to build on the momentum of this conversation, Feed the Children would like invite you to join us in a Twitter Town Hall on Tuesday, February 3rd.

In collaboration with the White House Office of Faith Based Partnerships and USDA Food and Nutrition Service, we’d like you to talk with us about how we can feed more children in the US this summer.

Here’s what you need to know:

What: Twitter Town Hall

When: Tuesday, February 3rd, 1-2 pm EST

Who:

  • Members of faith communities who have participated in a summer meal program,
  • Faith leaders who want to participate in a summer meal program
  • Anyone who feels it is an injustice that kids go without food during the summer

Where: #expandingthetable

Why: Because 12. 5 million children without lunch this summer is unacceptable

See you online @feedthechildren on Tuesday.

Emergency Relief Coming to Malawi

Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, experienced torrential rains this week, resulting in rampant flooding due to late summer storms.  Although this is the region’s rainy season, Malawi has not seen flooding like this since 1964.

These deadly floods submerged villages and destroyed crops and livestock.  This disaster is especially devastating because 8 of every 10 Malawians earn a living through agriculture.

An estimated 200,000 people have fled their homes, finding themselves suddenly without access to food or shelter.  Already, almost 200 people are reported missing or dead.

Feed the Children currently operates community-based programs in more than 625 communities in Malawi and its team on the ground plans to focus its initial relief efforts in Nsanje, Chikwawa and Salima, three districts designated as priority areas for assistance by Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. Feed the Children’s efforts in Salima district will benefit from our strong program presence in that area and our ability to mobilize there quickly.

Working in partnership with Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management, we are swiftly responding to this disaster with the help of Nu Skin’s Nourish the Children (NTC) Initiative and Proctor & Gamble. We are distributing tens of thousands of bags of Nu Skin’s VitaMeal to provide meals for the displaced.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief to Malawi flood victims, please visit our website.

(Image above from the UN).

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.

Child Sponsors: We Salute You!

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love! – Hamilton Wright Mabie

Since 2009, I’ve been traveling the world with musicians, singers, songwriters and their teams in hopes of this very thing: to engage the world with love and involve as many people in this lofty pursuit as possible.

In 2013, I joined the team at Feed the Children as Director of Artist Relations, Child Sponsorship and Media excited about how I could champion Feed the Children’s mission that no child goes to bed hungry!

After all the miles flown and countries visited, I still believe that one idea, like this, can change the world. We’ve seen it happen throughout history and continue to see it today. But ideas alone do not bring about change. This is what I’ve come to know through my work: change happens when WE engage the world around us and come together with a common goal. Partnership is the key! When we work together, lives are impacted and change is evident.

Over the past year at Feed the Children, we have seen the ripples of change turn into waves through child sponsorship. With over 20,000 kids sponsored in 2014, these simple single acts of kindness have created a tsunami of love for children and families all over the world. Your gracious monthly gifts have not only provided necessities to sustain life but they’ve given hope and the opportunity to dream big.

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Kids are smiling.

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Kids are playing.

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Kids are being kids!

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So, if you are a child sponsor…THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! This is the message the children have for you!

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You have chosen to impact the life of a child and to unite with us as we together engage the world around us with love.

From the entire child sponsorship team, know how grateful we are for you! Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

-Crystal Hutchinson

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).

Why We Advocate for Ester

At Feed the Children, we focus our work on things that will help kids be kids. That means all kids. Not just kids in a certain country. Not just kids from a particular faith. Not just kids of a given ethnicity. Not just kids with specific ability.

When we say we have a mission to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials, that’s what we mean. No exclusions.

But that’s easier said than done for kids like Ester.

**

Ester is a happy 10-year-old—you’ll often see her with a smile. She lights up when she’s with her friends and cousins, or when she’s watching her family’s ducks waddle and peck, or when she’s listening to a good story.

Ester lives in the economically depressed community of Quezalapa 2, El Salvador, about 16 miles outside of the capital city, San Salvador. The community’s diet is based on rice, beans, vegetables, eggs, and tortillas, but Ester’s family can only afford to eat once a day, and most of their meals are limited to tortillas and beans—hardly the building blocks for a healthy child.

Most of the areas of the community have piped water service at home, but during the summer months, the water shortage reduces the service to only once every six days. But even that would be better than the non-potable water Ester’s family has to work with. They live on the edge of a ravine, where no public services reach.

The family is large and close-knit, 13 of them in all. Ester lives with her parents and little sister in a tiny house on the same land as her cousins and aunt, but they essentially live together—the kids all call each other brother and sister. Their houses are made of adobe and bamboo walls, sheet metal roofs, and dirt floors. They don’t have electricity or toilets—outside of the houses there is a latrine that they share with three neighbors.

But they’re a family, and that means they do everything they possibly can for each other.

Ester’s siblings and cousins learn and eat every school day at the center that Feed the Children runs in their community—but she has to stay home. Ester has cerebral palsy.

She doesn’t have the strength to hold objects in her hands, so she can’t feed herself. She can’t walk, so she’s wheelchair bound. And although her mind is absolutely there, Ester can’t speak. So her disability prevents her from attending a regular school. And unlike the resources available for kids with disabilities in the U.S., there are no accommodations, no special schools, and no affordable therapies for Ester in Quezalapa.

The areas where free therapy is provided for people with disabilities are out of reach for Ester. The main road that leads to San Salvador is inaccessible for her family: They would have to carry her 2.5 miles from the edge of the ravine, up an extremely rocky, twisting path. And even if they made it all that way to the road, they might have a very long wait for the sole bus that serves their community, which could very well be too full to accommodate her wheelchair. Besides, who can really choose bus fare over food?IMG_7970

So while Ester’s dad works as a farmer, earning around $2 a day, her mom and aunt take care of her at home. Ester loves the “home therapy” her mom gives her while she’s getting her dressed each day. She massages Ester’s hands, legs, and feet to relax her always-tensed muscles and to prevent blood clots from forming. She cleans and feeds her, and she’s deeply grateful for the meal that comes for Ester at noon:

“I’m happy because you are a big help for us. It’s very difficult for us to get food for this big family, and before you came we didn’t have a way to provide the nutritious food that you provide to our children.”

When Ester’s cousins come home from the feeding center, they bring her meal back with them. Because we fortify food at our center with vitamins and nutrients that kids need to grow healthy and strong, Ester’s mom has help in battling her daughter’s malnutrition.

“Thank you, Feed the Children, for the food—this is a blessing from you and from God, and I hope you can keep helping us with our children.”IMG_7986

We want to keep helping Ester until she doesn’t need help anymore, but with the limitations of her disability, that could mean her whole life. So that’s why we do more than just provide food.

At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that get us closer to our vision to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We are a global family, and that means we do everything we possibly can for each other.

One of our recent advocacy campaigns is the Disability Treaty. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the gold standard for the non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and inclusion for children and adults with disabilities, and the Disability Treaty is a 130-country-strong push to get those same protections for people worldwide.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “The challenge now is to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Treaty for the benefit of the world’s one billion disabled people.”

As our staff has written about the Disability Treaty here in greater depth, the U.S.’s ratification of the treaty would provide greater accommodations for those with special needs around the world. So Feed the Children speaks up in Washington, and we urge you to do the same, wherever you are.

We are advocates for Ester. We are advocates for all kids. And they need you to be an advocate too. Click here to learn more about how you can use your voice to help kids be kids!