When they feed us at school I feel more awake and I want to keep learning.
Feeding Minds. Saving Lives. PCI’s Efforts to End World Hunger
We all know that the brain needs food to function. Ten-year-old Elena knows that without food to fuel the brain, the learning that will take place is minimal at best. She tells PCI, “When they feed us at school I feel more awake and I want to keep learning.”
Parents the world over consider the nutritional needs of their children on a daily basis. They shop for food choices that will appeal to their age appropriate finicky palates, and also meet the dietary recommendations prescribed by pediatricians. Kids complain, often and dramatically, that they are, “Starving.” Thankfully, most kids don’t really know what starving feels like. Most kids, but sadly, not all – according to world hunger statistics.
It is one thing to feel hungry day in and day out. It’s quite another to starve to death from lack of food. Tragically, starving to death is exactly the fate of far too many people worldwide. World hunger facts reflect that 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. This number has fallen by 130 million since 1990, but progress slowed in recent years.
PCI is addressing large-scale issues like world hunger and malnutrition by working with communities to distribute food through our school feeding and agricultural assistance programs. In 2012, PCI shipped 2,487 metric tons of food to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Tanzania. Since 2001, PCI has provided over 154 million meals to school children around the world.
Bolivia is another country where PCI’s efforts to stop hunger have focused on feeding the school children. Imagine the challenge of trying to learn on an empty stomach, or trying to teach hungry children. Kids lucky enough to attend school may walk even an hour to and from school each day. When they arrive at one of the schools where PCI works to combat hunger and malnutrition, their parents know their child will be receiving a complete meal, possibly the only one they will eat all day.
PCI’s school food program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a crucial component of Bolivia’s educational system. PCI provides one meal per school day to approximately thousands of children in the regions of Cochabamba, Oruro, and Potosi, Bolivia.
Population growth is a major contributor to the world hunger problem. Global population has been consistently increasing since the beginning of mankind, and with great periods of technological development like the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and today’s booming field of medical research focused on disease control and eradication, population growth rates have been increasing at an unprecedented rate. In fact, in 2011 the UN officially declared that the global population had surpassed 7 billion people for the first time. And that number is only set to increase, with the UN projecting that the population will reach 8.1 billion in 2025, 9.6 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100.
What is even more important than how much the planet’s population is growing is where this growth is concentrated. According to the UN, growth is expected to be especially dramatic in the areas currently least prepared to accommodate more people – developing nations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Already most of these countries rely on international aid programs from foreign governments and organizations like PCI to keep their citizens alive and sufficiently nourished.
Nutrition security would continue to be a growing issue in the global food crisis, even without the burdens of the planet’s increasing population, but the two issues go hand in hand. Of the more than 840 million people who are malnourished across the globe – 799 million of them live in the developing world. Each year, hunger and malnutrition claim the lives of six million children under the age of five. While malnutrition and food insecurity have many causes, such as drought, floods, armed conflict or political disruptions, most of widespread hunger in the world results from deeply rooted poverty. Poverty prevents people from having sufficient access to nutritious food, as well as the means to buy farming equipment and other necessities to produce their own food.
Hunger in Africa represents by far the most extreme example of the reality of world hunger. Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations on earth with a multi-ethnic population and rich history. Sadly, it is also one of the world’s poorest. Thirty-eight percent of the population lives below the poverty line, with 12 million people chronically food insecure and dependent on food aid. Nearly half (44%) of children under five are stunted and about 29% of all children are under-weight. This is further exacerbated by poor access to clean water and vulnerability to extreme weather conditions, such as annual droughts and flooding.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, malnutrition, poverty, HIV and maternal and child health are inextricably linked. Malnutrition is both a risk factor and an outcome of HIV/AIDS; it increases individuals’ susceptibility to HIV and hinders HIV treatment. For example, while Anti-Retroviral Treatment adherence is vital for promoting good health and preventing the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV, adherence is difficult given that it requires a rigorous regimen and requires access to nutritional foods.
Since 2006, PCI has collaborated with USAID’s International Food Relief Partnership (IFRP) to improve food and nutrition security for HIV+ pregnant mothers and children in Addis Ababa. Central to sustaining the benefits of this program is the promotion of a sustainable food security strategy involving urban gardening and poultry production. To date, the project has improved the food and nutrition security of 22,634 HIV+ pregnant women, HIV+ children, and related family members.
Accessibility to water is also a concern. Clean water services are vital to any community – for people to drink, as well as to sustain and nourish crops in their gardens, and on their farms.
In Ethiopia, coffee farming is the primary source of income for many rural households, which also have some of the lowest coverage of water access, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. In response, in collaboration with The Starbucks Foundation, PCI is implementing the Sidama Coffee Farmers Health through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project. The project is designed to improve health outcomes of coffee farmers and their communities in the Sidama Zone of Southern Ethiopia. Over the next two years, the project will bring increased access to safe drinking water to 10,000 people, and sanitation facilities to another 2,000. To promote long-term sustainability, the project will assist the Sidama Farmers’ Cooperative Union and its member farmers to improve resource management and will train 500 female coffee farmers in PCI’s GROW economic empowerment model.
With the populations of 35 developing countries expected to triple between 2013 and 2100 and the production of food not expected to match that growth, programs like those implemented by PCI are more important than ever. Beyond providing thousands of pounds of food aid, PCI’s programs teach citizens in these rapidly growing communities more effective farming and food storage techniques to increase their crop yields and continue to improve food security. Millions of individual lives have been changed by the efforts of PCI, the communities we work with, and the admirable efforts of the individuals themselves.