Tag Archives: World Food Program

Food education is not a luxury

What’s for Lunch? has attracted some great responses on the international front, especially in Brazil. Yesterday, the World Food Programme’s Centre for Excellence Against Hunger—a collaboration between the government of Brazil and the WFP that started with a focus on best practises for school feeding—published a Q& A with me about the book and what I discovered in my research about how different nations around the world approach school meals.
Below, you’ll find one of their (rather tough) questions. To read the whole interview, click here.
Is the emphasis that is sometimes placed on nutritional education a luxury that only richer countries can afford? Or is it wrong to make the distinction between feeding and nurturing?
There are times of emergency when almost any food is good enough for a short period—during the heat of war, natural disaster, etc. But I think we all need to strive for something better than emergency rations devoid of taste, culture and pleasure. Children in developing nations should have all the opportunities that children elsewhere enjoy. Nutrition education is part of this. To alleviate anemia, for instance, we need to ensure children are offered food that is rich in iron, but we also need to talk to them about why it’s important, so they can pass it on to their parents and their own children as they grow older. But I also think food literacy needs to be more than just education about nutrients, micronutrients and food groups, educators should be talking with children about where food comes from, who grows it, how it’s grown, the politics of agriculture and the world of processed food. We have a deeply interconnected international food system, so these issues touch not just those in wealthy nations but people everywhere. In fact, you could easily argue that it’s the poor who benefit least in our current food system. Shouldn’t they have a chance to learn about how the system works and why? It seems to me that talking to children and helping them make the links between their food, their lives and those of people in the world around them is one of the very best way to truly transform the system so that it’s sustainable and just. I was really inspired by some groups in Peru that are working in collaboration with indigenous people to reclaim their food culture, language and traditions in part by connecting schoolchildren with elders in their communities who remember the old agricultural techniques and knowledge of plants. This is the kind of food education I’m talking about and it’s no luxury, it’s a necessity.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Molly’s story

Photograph by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Researching What’s for Lunch? I talked to and read about lots of amazing people all over the world doing great things to improve kids’ access to healthy food. It was very inspiring.

But, for me, one of the most moving parts of my research was learning about Dadaab refugee camp on the border of Kenya and Somalia. There, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in their homeland are crammed into a space intended for 90,000. Many kids don’t even go to school because the facilities are crowded and inadequate and they have to share text books and desks. But the children who do attend receive a hot meal provided by the World Food Programme. It’s usually very simple: corn-soy porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals. It’s not served in pretty dishes or colourful trays, but for many of the kids it’s the best—and often only—meal they’ll have all day.

There, school lunch is more than a perk for busy parents or even a way to embed food literacy into the already robust curriculum, it’s life-sustaining.

For World Food Day—mark your calendars for October 16—the World Food Programme (WFP) has a new campaign to raise awareness and funds for its excellent work all over the world, including school meal programs that ensure nearly 26 million kids in 60 countries receive a healthy meal each day. All you have to do is watch the video (above), take a quick quiz and one meal will be provided to a child through the WFP. Continue reading

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

School lunch matters

With the recent publication of What’s for Lunch? I’ve been talking a lot about the potential for school lunch to transform schools and communities. I thought I’d try to express some of those possibilities in an easy-to-digest infographic ready for sharing. Please feel free to share, and let others know about the power of food.

Many thanks to Oliver Sutherns who designed and stick-handled the infographic from idea to reality!

Embed this image on your site:

<a href="http://unpackingschoollunch.wordpress.com/the-blog/school-lunch-matters/"><img src="http://unpackingschoollunch.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/school-lunch-infographic1.jpg" alt="School Lunch Matters Infographic" border="0" /></a><br />Brought to you by <a href="http://unpackingschoollunch.wordpress.com">Andrea Curtis</a>

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Seven billion and counting

There’s been a ton of coverage in the news this week about the birth of the 7 billionth baby on Earth. The Atlantic put out a beautiful and haunting photo series on the subject, and every media outlet has covered it.

There’s a weird kind of tone to much of it. Some people want to be hopeful—yay! it’s someone’s birthday—but we all know this is not exactly cause to celebrate.

To me, seeing all the newscasts together, I can’t help but think of them as the opening credits to some sort of sci-fi thriller, in which the audience learns that this particular event was the final straw before everything went to hell in a handbasket. The truth is, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll sustain life on this planet at the rate we’re going. Not only in terms of population, of course, but all the ancillary bits that go along with living with 7 billion (and counting) other souls on a planet with finite resources—food shortages, water shortages, climate change, too much waste, pollution and all the social problems that result.

Scientific American published a fascinating story exploring the maximum human population that the earth can sustain (10.1 billion according to UN demographers).

But it was seeing the World Food Program’s “News Flash” on the subject that really hit home for me.

Twenty-five per cent of the one billion hungry are children.

It’s sobering stuff with no easy solutions, though it seems clear that the model of endless growth and mass consumption can’t continue indefinitely. To read more about what this week’s birthday celebrations mean on the food front, check out the WFP’s list of must-read articles on the subject here.

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Talking about hunger with kids

Last week I wrote about the famine in East Africa. But how do we make sense of such catastrophic events with children? How do you explain to your kids—in a classroom or at home—that we have enough food to feed everyone in the world but five million children die of hunger in the developing world every year?

It’s not easy. When my kids’ school hosted a hunger banquet two years ago, we all (parents and teachers) struggled not to feel hopeless or powerless, to provide context and also to go farther in our analysis of solutions than simply “you need to donate to international food agencies” or “donate to the local food bank.” While that might make sense in the short term, much larger and more systemic changes are necessary if we are really going to challenge hunger in our lifetimes.

For some ideas about how to talk about these issues, check out the WFP’s recently revamped website with its excellent resources and country profiles aimed at students and teachers. It’s also got resource links, examples of schools taking action on hunger issues, and classroom activities such as a math exercise in which kids in Grades 4-6 learn about what it’s like to live on less than $2 per day.

I’m also continually adding to my Resource page aimed at teachers and parents interested in the food system, including issues of  hunger, malnutrition and food justice. Check it out here.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School lunch

Famine in the Horn of Africa

Donate to WFP at http://www.wfp.org

I’ve written before about the school feeding program in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, where some 300,000 people are crammed into an area intended for far, far less. Malnutrition, overcrowding, and problems with sanitation and access to potable water are common. The World Food Program provides a fortified corn-soy (CSB) porridge at the schools so kids can focus on their work (also as encouragement to attend, though only about 50% of kids in the camp go because the facilities are so inadequate).

Well, since I last wrote about it, things have been getting worse. Much worse. The most severe drought in 60 years is causing a food crisis and malnutrition. According to the WFP:

“The number of people in the Horn of Africa requiring food assistance… is expected to rise as high as 10 million in coming weeks…”

That’s an increase of about 4 million people needing help during this especially severe drought, made even more difficult because of conflict and high food prices. More and more hungry people are flooding into these camps (journalist Ben Brown calls it a “vision of hell”), and the WFP—which relies on individual donations—is looking at a serious funding shortfall.

I don’t think emergency food handouts (like fortified porridge or biscuits, or here at home food banks) are the answer to hunger in the long term, but right now thousands of children and their families could go hungry and die unless the world responds. Read more about what some are calling a famine in East Africa here and here. And please consider donating to the WFP.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding

Food emergency in Japan

News out of Japan yesterday about the radioactive contamination of food in a wide area around the nuclear plant is terrifying. But not so much because of worries about international exports, as the article focuses on—that’s straightforward enough to shut down. Instead, it’s the people in Japan who are most likely to suffer its lingering effects.

And this when it’s already hard to get enough food to people in the affected areas.  Second Harvest Japan, the first food bank in that country, has dedicated all of its resources to responding to the earthquake, funnelling food and funds to those in need. You can follow their actions on Twitter and their blog and/or make a donation to their relief efforts here.

DONATE HERE

(I was surprised to learn that even before the earthquake and tsunami 650,000 Japanese lacked food security and more than 50% of single parent families live in poverty. These people were in crisis long before the crisis.)

The World Food Program is also on the emergency food case, helping to provide logistical support and getting supplies to the affected areas “where some 350,000 people are estimated to be staying in 2,100 shelters,” according to WFP.

Unfortunately, none of this is going to go away soon. The scale of disaster is vast. But Japan has such a rich, interesting and well-established food culture (including one of the most intelligent school lunch programs I’ve seen in the world—see my posts about it here), its food system could very well prove as resilient as the people themselves.

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch