Parents used to (maybe still do) attempt to make their children eat brussel sprouts for dinner by saying, “What about those starving children in Africa or China!” And though I’ve always been keenly aware of the hunger problem ‘out there’, I’ve also tried to remind my children that hunger also exists in the United States — in our own backyards. I knew in the end that discussions over broccoli at the dinner table wouldn’t give them a realistic look at the plight of those in need. They would need to witness it firsthand, so when I would volunteer at soup kitchens or raised money for can donations for the homeless and less fortunate, I’d make sure to have my kids in tow to help. I truly believe that had a significant impact on how they see their place in the world, and has kept them right-sized in a world among others.
I am so proud of the huge and important FEED initiative that my oldest daughter Lauren has formed in order to combat the issue of hungry, especially childhood hunger. Since Lauren found FEED in 2007, it has flourished into an organization dedicated to the fight against hunger and poverty, both in the United States and abroad. As a social business, FEED seeks to lend assistance to communities in need through the production and sale of apparel, accessories and gift items. Each product is stamped with a number symbolizing the real-world impact of the sale; donations range from school meals to fortified foods designed to promote optimal mother-child nutrition throughout pregnancy and infancy.
FEED’s initiatives seek to put an end to the larger problems facing millions of families worldwide, many of which stem from severe malnutrition. While serving as an honorary spokesperson for the World Food Programme, Lauren began to realize how great an impact school lunches alone could make. Research data suggests that when children are fed at school, attendance rates increase dramatically and overall academic performance improves notably. Females in particular benefit from additional schooling, as even just a few years of education greatly lowers their chances of becoming pregnant prematurely.
World hunger is not the only challenge FEED has taken on, however. The charity group works with artisans and cooperatives in countries like Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Kenya to create new opportunities in some of the most impoverished parts of the globe. Fair labor conditions are emphasized throughout all facets of the production cycle and environmentally-friendly materials are utilized whenever possible.
With each sale of a FEED-branded product, a corresponding donation is made in the form of school lunches, nutrient-rich powders or high-dose vitamin A supplements. The organization’s website notes the charitable benefit alongside each product. For example, the $75.00 FEED Backpack provides 75 healthy meals for schoolchildren around the world. The FEED 100 Shopper bag, meanwhile, promises to provide 100 vitamin A supplement capsules for a $35.00 purchase.
The benefits of school meals have been well documented, but efforts to distribute micronutrient powders and vitamin supplements can produce notable impacts as well. Micronutrient deficiency is a major threat both to the physical health and mental development of children. By supplementing foods prepared at home which are less rich in nutrients, this vulnerable segment of the population can be better protected and prepared for future success.
Similarly, vitamin A is a key player in both ocular health and immune system function. When daily intake of this vital nutrient is insufficient, children as well as new mothers are placed at risk. Administering high-dosage vitamin A capsules twice each year helps fight formation of deficiencies, promoting better health and overall survival rates.
Nearly 50 million Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. Worldwide, over 800 million people are affected by hunger, over 60 percent of which are women. Innovative approaches to philanthropy such as the one taken by FEED are helping turn the tide on this global challenge, which in turn results in a number of communal benefits.
FEED strategically partners with charitable organizations including the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF, and Feeding America. To date, they have provided over 87 million meals to women and children in 63 different countries, including food aid contributions in the United States as well as emergency relief services worldwide.
Though the organization has accomplished much in raising awareness and funds to help assuage the alarming numbers of those left hungry everyday, I know my daughter strives always to do much more. I know this in the same way I knew that taking the young Lauren to soup kitchens to serve meals to the hungry would help shape an adult Lauren’s desire to think globally, act locally and always with publicly-minded intentions at heart.