Food for the Hungry

Food for the Hungry

According to Food for the Hungry (FH), the United Nations recently praised progress toward decreasing malnutrition worldwide among children in their first 1,000 days of life—a critical timeframe for a healthy adulthood.

“Food for the Hungry (FH) has programs in over 20 countries, and child mortality rates in some are 10 times higher than in the U.S.,” said Carolyn Wetzel, director of FH’s health programs. Focusing on making sure children are well nourished during the first 1,000 days of life helps reduce these rates.”

Research shows that more children die during infancy if undernourished while in the womb. They are more likely to experience a lifetime of cognitive issues that reduce their ability to learn and prosper. It puts them at risk of disease and traps them in a lifetime of poverty, says FH.

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FH developed a “cascading model” to help communities reduce maternal and child malnutrition and deaths.

“We start in communities by finding families with relatively healthy children and determine why those children are thriving,” said Wetzel. “This helps us determine why other children are not thriving. Then we train volunteer leaders who teach other families to help their children thrive.”

Cultural issues often work against communities. Some cultures believe that the first milk from a lactating mother, called colostrum, is unhealthy. But nutrients and antibodies in colostrum protect newborns from disease.

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Some cultures believe pregnant women shouldn’t eat peanuts, despite the value of this protein-rich food. Many women are afraid to eat too much during pregnancy, believing a higher birth weight baby will increase their chance of dying in childbirth.

“Children are at the heart of FH’s ministry,” said Wetzel. “If we can save more than one million lives annually, reduce disease, and increase a country’s GDP by 2 to 3 percent per year by focusing on the first 1,000 days of life, then why wouldn’t we? We are called to respond, and we are answering that call.”

FH will host a Twitter chat about World Food Day (#WFD2012), at 7 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 17, 2012, to talk about #malnutrition prevention in children.

Founded in 1971, Food for the Hungry provides emergency relief and long-term development programs in more than 20 countries to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

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