See what is going on in the world of hunger this week. Check out these headlines:
Leadership Lesson: Taking Time to Celebrate
Feed the Children CEO and President, Kevin Hagan writes this week more about his recent visit to Kenya to launch the new Feed the Children brand in Africa. “We must celebrate our victories. It is so easy in the non-profit world to be overcome with the needs around the world that we don’t take time to stop and see how far we’ve come as industry.” Read the entire post here.
People in poverty tend to look for quick health fixes: study
People in low-income brackets are more likely to look for a quick fix when it comes to getting healthy, suggests a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found that people in such brackets were less likely to try cutting back on sugar, working out more or drinking more water, and more likely to reach for diet pills, according to study leader Lisa Kakinami. Read this article on the New York Daily News.
If You Give Women in Poverty the Right Tools, They Will Flourish
When we raise up the women in the community, we also raise up the children. A new study examines the economic growth of several communities in Africa where women are given tools to thrive. Read this article on The Huffington Post.
Domestic Hunger News
Hit by poverty, Ferguson reflects the new suburbs
The violent confrontations between police and citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, highlight the rapid demographic shift in the suburbs, which are now home to a majority of the nation’s poor. There’s a growing number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs, more than we might have imagined. Read this article on CBS Money Watch.
International Hunger News
Drought Hits Food Supplies in Central America
Central America is having one of its worst droughts in decades, and experts warned Thursday that major farm losses and the deaths of hundreds of cattle in the region could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food. The agricultural losses are largely in corn and beans, basic staples of the region’s diet, the United Nations’ World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Read this article on ABC News.
Ebola May Leave 1 Million People In Need Of Food Help
The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area. Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries. Read this article on The Huffington Post.
The Current System is Broken: Bringing Hunger Relief Home for the Summer
During the school year, 21 million American children qualify for free or low-cost school meals from school lunch programs. But when school ends, so do these reliable meals. Kids right here in the United States are going hungry this summer, wondering where their next meal will come from (we call this “food insecurity”). How can they enjoy a summer of just being kids when their stomachs are growling? That’s just it – they can’t.
Our new brand reflects our renewed commitment to do more together so that more kids can just be kids and no child ever goes to bed hungry. It’s a promise we make to the world and to ourselves about how we will carry out our mission. Our mission stays the same: to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry. Our brand is how we go about doing that.
The theme of all our messages—and theme of all our work—is to help kids be kids.
As millions of Americans continue to struggle in a sluggish economy, a growing portion of the country says that poverty is caused by circumstances beyond individual control, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll shows a significant shift in American opinion on the causes of poverty since the last time the question was asked, nearly 20 years ago.
The OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is out with a new report on rising income inequality. The key finding that stands out, is that the risk of poverty has shifted from the elderly, those over the age of 65, to young adults, those between the ages of 18 and 25.
World Refugee Day: Shameful That Tens of Thousands of Children in South Sudan Could Die From Lack of Food
Almost a million people have been forced to leave their homes in South Sudan following months of violent conflict. Over one million are displaced and dispersed in hard to reach areas in the country, and over 350,000 more have fled South Sudan for refuge in neighbouring nations. These statistics, like many others you will no doubt read today on World Refugee Day are shocking in their scale. Unless we act now, these numbers will be about death rather than displacement – because famine is looming.
Shoes are more than a fashion statement or an effort to appear taller. Shoes keep us healthy. On April 29, 2014, we are going without shoes to help more people understand just how important shoes are to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
Poverty is complex and can’t be solved any one single way. We all need to work together to help children get and stay healthy, go to school, and find opportunities for a better future. Wearing shoes is an important part of that.
One condition, called podoconiosis, is very debilitating, causing extremely painful swelling of the feet and legs. Podo affects more than 4 million people in at least 15 countries. (Source: WHO, 2013)
Podo can be prevented by wearing shoes and practicing good foot hygiene. Feed the Children gives shoes along with health education to children at risk of podo.
Feed the Children distributes TOMS to children in many of the schools where we work, enabling children to attend school regularly. Providing shoes with uniforms improves school attendance by 62%.
When we go without shoes on April 29, we will write the name of one of the children in our programs on our feet. We hope people will ask why so we can share how important shoes are for helping children stay healthy, grow strong, and go to school. Shoes really do help create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
It was exciting to be in the Feed the Children offices in Oklahoma City last month. The world came to Oklahoma as we hosted all of our international regional and country directors for our annual Global Conference.
Over the course of 8 days we shared stories of our work, we discussed our plans to add and expand programs, and we challenged one another to grow together in professional development. Most of all we dreamed together about how we could serve even more children and families—truly fulfilling our mission that no child goes to bed hungry.
We kicked off the week with an historic event: the international leadership of Feed the Children and World Neighbors, our newest partner, sat in the room together and planned collaborative work to help build self-sufficient communities around the globe. It was the first time since World Neighbors became a Feed the Children subsidiary that our respective teams joined together in such a dialogue. I felt so privileged to witness this talented and motivated group gathered in person around a common table to talk about how we could build a more cohesive organization as a global family. And the synergy that exists between the work of these two organizations was amazing to witness!
World Neighbors and Feed the Children are already working side by side in several countries, such as Kenya and Guatemala. Each organization will bring their best to the partnership.
We also made plans for Feed the Children to expand into regions of Asia in which World Neighbors has worked for years. They have much to teach us and we hope to learn from them as we enter into new communities together.
Our teams also shared administrative strategies. Feed the Children has strengths in the area of fundraising and marketing that will help World Neighbors fund their work.
Listening in and being a part of these discussions encouraged me greatly for the future.
The non-profit world, especially among relief and development agencies, has a bad reputation for competition, not collaboration. I want the larger Feed the Children family to build a different, more collaborative reputation. What encourages me is that World Neighbors is not, nor has it ever been, that kind of organization, not in its 60-plus years of existence.
Meeting as we did at the Global Conference last week, international and domestic staff working together for a common purpose, gives us the opportunity to do great things. Together, we have the opportunity to challenge the way we’ve always conducted business. We have the opportunity to more effectively communicate our mission to those who contribute to our work. We have the opportunity to deliver excellent customer service to our colleagues, no matter if our home base is in Nairobi, Cebu, Nashville or Oklahoma City.
Our Global Conference is an important annual tradition. Not only do I think that our international field staff leaves the USA refreshed and more energized for their work, but so does our US-based staff.
As I walked around our offices this morning, several of our employees told me how wonderful it was to have our international colleagues among us recently. I couldn’t agree more, and I’m excited to see all that we’ll accomplish between now and next year’s annual conference.
As we work and talk with people across the country and around the world, we run across many misconceptions about child sponsorship.
Perhaps you’ve heard of (or said yourself) some of these:
Myth #1: Sponsorship-funded programs feed children only, nothing more.
In fundraising speak, this myth claims that these programs operate on a very low cost-per-beneficiary budget that leaves little room for development work.
Fact: Sponsorship-funded programs feed kids and also address the root causes of hunger.
This myth is partially the fault of messages that emphasize feeding a child for pennies a day without mentioning working toward longer-term solutions. We want to provide the kind of help that enables communities to become self-sufficient. We don’t want them to need help forever!
Myth #2: Sponsorship-funded programs are mostly about letter writing between sponsors and children.
This is another myth implying that sponsoring a child doesn’t provide much in the way of tangible or long-term benefits.
Fact: Sponsoring a child encompasses far more than being his or her pen-pal.
Letters mean so much to the children in our programs. Research tells us that children who receive letters from sponsors go further in school and have better self-images than those who do not get letters. But sponsoring a child provides much more: food, water, health care, education, and livelihood training with a focus on the child, the family, and the whole community.
Myth #3: Sponsorship’s main purpose is to make donors feel good.
Sponsoring a child DOES feel good. But this myth claims that is the main purpose, not addresing the needs of the child and his or her community.
Fact: The goal of sponsoring a child is to develop individual, family, and community independence.
Again, this is the fault of messages that focus on telling donors how good they are for donating and failing to follow through with reports on the work being done and the results in the lives of the children.
Myth #4: Sponsorship only helps the sponsored child.
And this, if true, would result in some children receiving more than others.
Fact: While some child sponsorship programs may work this way, ours does not.
We can’t speak for all child sponsorship programs, but at Feed the Children, we are very careful not to create a dynamic of haves and have-nots in the communities in which we work. We never want some kids to receive benefits while others suffer.
Myth #5: Sponsorship programs don’t work/You can’t evaluate sponsorship programs to show objective results.
Some people don’t think there’s any real scientifically-based way to assess the work being done and determine whether it’s actually improving conditions and child wellbeing. The underlying gist of these myths is the claim that the child sponsorship model hinders development organizations from designing effective community development programs.
Fact: Child sponsorship program DO work, and we have the research to prove it.
A reliable way to fund community-based programs that help all children – even if the effects take a while to ripple out to everyone.
Community-based programs that improve the entire community without bias or leaving people out. For example:
A safe clean community water source leads to better drinking water for the sponsored child and all the others
Improved livelihoods for parents generate more income to pay school fees for all children, including the sponsored child (if their parents are involved)
Health promotion targeted at mothers of all young children results in healthier school-aged children later
Aplatform to educate and transform the donor. The long-term sharing of updates, progress reports, and program success creates a more knowledgeable, savvy, and engaged donor. People who understand community development not only support it themselves but become evangelists and educators of others, too!
A long-lasting, steady, and larger income source for organizations to fund holistic community development programs.
Every day you and I actively participate in advocacy, influencing and shaping how we live life. Whether you’re trying to convince your friends and family to go to Chipotle over Qdoba, or you are leading a community or work project, your individual values and life goals influence how you lead and make decisions for yourself and others. You may not realize it, but you’re already an advocate.
At its heart, advocacy seeks to change the game and reconfigure the dynamics to improve a situation by engaging with community agents and decision and policy makers.
At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that drive us toward our mission to ensure that no child or family goes to bed hungry.
The great thing about advocacy is that anyone and everyone can play a role. You don’t have to be a lobbyist or policy maker to influence legislation or systems that affect child nutrition or foreign assistance. In fact, every time you cast a vote for an elected official or you educate your community on an issue you care about, you act as an advocate.
Advocacy by nature engages systems – schools, governments, organizations and companies. An issue as severe as hunger requires every facet of the community to be involved to formulate a solution that addresses the root cause.
Feed the Children is only one part of the solution to ending hunger. By incorporating advocacy into our work, we collaborate internally and externally to bring together everyone – children and families vulnerable to food insecurity, governors, members of Congress, church leaders and volunteers – all to inform an improved local and national response to hunger and poverty.
As a value-driven organization, Feed the Children has the unique opportunity to carry out its vision by elevating the voices of children and families we serve to influence positive change and to help break the systemic cycle of poverty in their local communities. And you can be a part of this vision.
A great way to begin participating in advocacy is to find your own, individual identity in the issue of hunger. Whether you, a family member or friend at one point were vulnerable to hunger and poverty, or you know of a community anti-hunger organization, it is important for us to be familiar with the stories and nature of hunger in our own community. Once we better understand how hunger impacts our own lives, then can we take the next step to tell the stories of struggle, hope and courage to our community and to key decision makers.
Stories are a powerful tool to influence change, especially on hunger. You can leverage and harness those stories to influence a passionate response to providing more nutritious meals for kids who struggle with hunger in the summer. You can influence how your member of Congress and Governor protect our nation’s number one defense against hunger – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can educate your schools, faith communities and friends on SNAP in their area and how it serves the most needy.
These are just a few examples of how you can join Feed the Children in addressing the root cause of hunger and poverty through advocacy.
The numbers are staggering. The UN talks about “the bottom billion” — that’s billion with a B. This is the segment of the world’s population that urgently needs access to clean water and sanitation services and electricity.
“Worldwide, 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources, and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation.”
It can be difficult to wrap our minds around numbers as large as these. Hundreds of millions of people…a couple of billion people — this sounds impossible.
When a problem seems too big, we focus on the individuals, families, and communities where clean water and sanitation have changed (and saved) lives.
In most of the communities served by Feed the Children in Central America, families do not have daily access to running water. They have to walk long distances to rivers or springs to get water to drink, cook, wash clothes, and bathe. Most of them do not have toilets; instead, they use latrines that they can’t clean with water.
We can do something about this, one community at a time, one school at a time. We’re bringing clean water and sanitation to people who have suffered from parasites, diarrhea, and other water-borne illnesses their entire lives.
In the community of Jardines del Norte in Honduras, children used to become so malnourished from the parasites living in their bodies that they had to be admitted to the hospital for months at a time.
Jeimy is the youngest of seven children born to Karen and Juan. Her father has been unable to find a steady job, and her mother stays home to care for the children. When Jeimy was four months old, she became so desperately ill that she was admitted to a nutrition center. It took seven months for her to become stable. Today she is almost two years old and already has logged numerous visits to the hospital emergency room for treatment for multiple parasites.
In addition to helping provide Jeimy the medication and nutrition she needs to remain stable, Feed the Children recently helped her community dig a well. The well is located at the perimeter wall of the community school, and the entire community is able to fill jugs and buckets of water to use for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
It is still a far cry from the indoor plumbing we take for granted in our own homes, but children and their families are grateful to have a secure, reliable, and safe source of water available.
Today, many other improvements are visible in this community. Men attend a carpentry school in a nearby community where they learn to build sturdy and beautiful furniture. The school provides hot meals five days a week to children who did not have a reliable source of food before. None of this could have happened without safe drinking water.
We are repeating the same story all over the region. Feed the Children–El Salvador has installed running water in the community of El Guayabo, improving the status of an entire school of 600 children. In the community of La Labor, Feed the Children–El Salvador installed a water filter to provide access to potable water for 150 children and their families.
An Interview with Corey Gordon, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Feed the Children
FTC: Why did you go to North Korea?
CG: Our vision at Feed the Children is that no child goes to bed hungry. We believe that every child, no matter where they are born, deserves to have nutritious food, a quality education, access to life-saving healthcare and hope for their future.
We know how great the need is in North Korea. Around 2.4 million children, pregnant and lactating women, and elderly North Koreans need regular food assistance according to Humanitarian Needs and Priorities, DPR Korea 2013. The National Nutrition Survey 2012, DPR Korea reports that more than 1 in 4 children under age 5 experience stunting from chronic malnutrition, with 1 in 3 of the children between age 2 and 5 suffering chronic malnutrition. Chronic diarrhea caused by lack of clean water and sanitation is one of the two leading causes of death among children under five (pneumonia is the other, according to Humanitarian Needs and Priorities, DPR Korea 2013). We also know that no other US-based non-profit is feeding or advocating for children there. It is clear that we, as a mission-driven organization, cannot not turn our back on the possibility of starting or supporting feeding programs in North Korea.
The opportunity to visit came about through the invitation of Dr. Kim, president of Pyongyang University of Science & Technology, to whom I was introduced by a well-respected international NGO leader, Dr. Ted Yamamori, former president of Food for the Hungry. Both men accompanied me to North Korea in December 2013 to see first-hand the work the university is doing to help the children of this country.
FTC: Were you scared?
CG: That’s the number one question people have asked me since my return. This was not my first international trip like this (I’ve been in NGO development work like this for some time), but I did have the healthy level of concern I always do when going into a country that appears to be volatile.
Because this country is such a mystery, with all the stories and rumors we hear, I was very careful: I didn’t want to offend anyone, commit any cultural taboos, or end up on the news because I’d been detained. But the people I met in North Korea saw that I was there to learn and sincere in wanting to partner with them to help the children. They saw that I was hiding nothing and arrived on their soil in the posture of a respectful guest, not the proverbial ugly American know-it-all.
I never felt in jeopordy or in danger while I was there. The North Korean government welcomed my visit officially and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPKR) officials accompanied me the entire time I was in the country. I will admit, though, that when my plane landed in Beijing and I was able to call my wife, I was relieved that all had gone well.
FTC: What were some aspects of your time in North Korea that surprised you?
CG: I learned so much there, uncovering surprises every day, but four things stick out in my mind about the trip:
The people of North Korea are no different from us. They love their families, love their children and want peace for their country. In spite of the many differences between our governments and politics, we have much common ground on a human-to-human level. The Korean people are not the axis of evil we’ve seen described by our media.
They were very straightforward and frank. In my conversations with several DPRK officials, I quickly knew where we stood with one another. They said, “If you are just here to take pictures for your own PR and fundraising, please don’t waste our time. But if you truly want to help us, we welcome you back.”
The people were very generous and welcoming. The whole week I was there, I was never made to feel like an outsider. As I was leaving, one DPKR official asked what my impressions were. When I replied, “You have a beautiful country, and your people are beautiful,” he gave me a big bear hug and asked, “When are you coming back?”
I was impressed that they wanted a heart-level connection with me, not just a business transaction. They were moved by my personal story of growing up as an American-GI-orphan on the streets of South Korea, which helped convince them of our sincere intent to help the children. After a lengthy conversation with several DPRK officials, one of them said, “In my heart I already feel like you are one of us, and that you have come home.”
FTC: Describe the children that you met. What are some of their greatest needs?
CG: DPKR officials took me out of the capital city of Pyongyang to the eastern coast of North Korea, where I was able to visit five children’s centers. As I greeted the children and met their care workers, what kept running through my mind was how often we see African children in need in photos and videos. Africa is a continent on which it seems you can find an American non-profit working in every square mile. We see far less about North Korea, even though the need is the same. They too need food, nutrition, healthcare, dental care and education.
FTC: What are your hopes for Feed the Children’s relationship with North Korea in the future?
CG: We need to help. To turn away now would run counter to our vision, and it will disintegrate every ounce of the trust that we built over the course of the December 2013 visit. I want to go back and continue to work with both DPRK and university officials to determine how we can begin helping the communities in greatest need. I look forward to seeing how our vision—that no child goes to bed hungry—can be lived out in North Korea.
Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day that calls our attention to what it means to advance women’s rights in the workforce, politics, and society. Through our work around the world, we meet strong women every day that inspire us. Women are seeking not only to feed their children but also give these children a better life than they knew. But we also are painfully aware that many women, no matter how hard they work, can never get ahead without a little assistance from their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Here’s one such story:
Matilda Nyasulu is 32 years old and mother of three daughters. She hails from a village in the Rumphi district in Malawi. Matilda has been married twice to men who did not financially support her family. She is currently single and caring for her two elderly parents as well as her daughters.
Matilda is dependent on her farming and piece work (a type of employment in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed regardless of time) to make ends meet for her children. Her parents are unable to work.
Four years ago, her situation was dire. Matilda said, “I really struggled to take care of my children and my parents. It was very difficult to find food and clothes for them. At one point, my oldest daughter did not go to school because I could not provide her with writing materials. It was also very difficult for me to find money to buy fertilizer as I was always experiencing food shortages.”
Matilda said she also finds it difficult to find money for transport to a nearest health center 20 kilometers (about 12 1/2 miles) away from her home.
In 2010, her children’s school, the Betere Community Based Child Care Centre (CBCC), identified Matilda’s as one of the households that could benefit from what they call the “Pass-On Goat Initiative.” Feed the Children gave her two female goats. After a few months, each of the goats birthed two goats. The project required that Matilda take two goats and pass them on to another family, which she did.
After some time, the goats multiplied to six. In 2012, Matilda sold one goat for around $75. With the money, she bought school uniforms, a pair of shoes, and writing materials for her two school-aged children. She used the remaining amount to pay the school fees for both children. Without the proceeds of the goat sale, her daughters would have lacked the clothes and supplies required to attend school.
“Selling the goat helped me to send my children to school,’’ she said.
In 2013, she slaughtered another goat and sold part of the meat for around $94 . Matilda kept part of it, to feed her children and family for a few days. She exchanged the remaining portion for fertilizer for her two acres of maize garden. She is also using goat droppings as manure in her maize garden. This is a huge accomplishment and will assist her to feed her family on her own.
“This year I expect to harvest more maize than in the previous years, because for the first time I have applied enough fertilizer in my maize garden!’’ Matilda said.
Matilda is a strong mom. She is so glad to be independent, no longer burdened by the weight of supporting her children’s education. Furthermore, Matilda believes that the people in her community respect her because of the goats she is raising.
When we look at hunger and poverty around the world, it can look too big to solve. But stories like Matilda’s show us how simple it is when you focus on one family at a time. After all, her story transformed with just two goats!
Feed the Children recently interviewed Ben Greene, Vice President of Sponsorship and Media, after his first trip to visit the communities we serve in Kenya.
FTC: Could you tell us when you joined the staff at Feed the Children and what your role is on our team?
BG: I joined Feed the Children in November of last year. I serve as the Vice President of Sponsorship & Media. This simply means that I work with our child sponsorship team to find ways to ensure even more children in developing countries are given the opportunity to thrive in life.
FTC: You recently traveled to Kenya to visit our staff and field programs there. Could you tell us when and why you made this long journey?
BG: Yes, from January 28- February 5th I traveled to Nairobi alongside one of our artist partners, Warren Barfield and his team. As a new member of the Feed the Children staff I was eager to get to the field and see the work myself. And because artists like Warren will be telling the Feed the Children story at events to potential child sponsors, they need to see and experience firsthand what we are doing on the ground. Together with Warren, it was wonderful to see the children we serve in the Dagoretti Children’s Center orphanage, those we serve in the slums in the city of Nairobi, and also those in Maparasha, a rural community.
FTC: You came to Feed the Children after having worked with two other similar large international non-profits. What stood out to you as you experienced Feed the Children’s programs first hand in Kenya that distinguishes Feed the Children from other organizations?
BG: In my work with organizations, I have been all around the world. And I know this: it seems that most organizations choose to either meet immediate needs and deal with the pressing issues of a community, or they decide to participate in development which helps the communities think long-term. I see a unique distinctive with Feed the Children in that we do both. We do feed children, especially in schools. Full tummies means effective learning for the day. But we also work with community leaders to develop better systems of healthcare, agriculture and education as well as livelihood development for the future. While in Kenya, it was wonderful to see communities engaged in all sorts of projects dealing with beekeeping, greenhouses, and water and sanitation. We truly are doing the work of holistic development— or as many folks in our industry like to say “giving a hand up and not just a hand out.”
FTC: Could you tell us more about a memorable experience you had while you were in Kenya.
BG: Being in this line of work for a while now, I’ve always said I aim to support the work of an organization that looks after the most vulnerable in our world. But, what an eye-opening experience it was visiting with the “Hardy Boys” in Nairobi! I realized I still had much to learn about what this means. The Hardy Boys are a group of 10 young men in their 20s who have aged out of our orphanage, but for whom Feed the Children will have a life-long relationship with because they are unable to care for themselves on their own due to certain disabilities.
As soon as we walked into their home, I was overwhelmed by their joy as the smiles never left their faces. After sharing a meal together, Warren began to play his guitar as we sang the song, “Everlasting God.” When we got to the words that said, “You’re the defender of the weak and You comfort those in need” I couldn’t help but think about the poignancy of those lyrics in that moment. I realized that these “boys” are what my work is all about. You can’t get much more vulnerable than living with special needs in the developing world. But even with all of their challenges the Hardy Boys couldn’t help but sing. This is what my work at Feed the Children is all about—protecting the most vulnerable like them. I think about them often now.