Food Affects Every Realm of Our Lives
By Walter Middleton – everyone is united by the common need for food
I enjoyed reading Judith Turner’s article “Feeding the children secures our future” (February 10). Having worked in the humanitarian arena for 46 years—carrying out large-scale feeding programmes for the poor and vulnerable, mostly children, pregnant and lactating mothers—I fully concur with Ms Turner about the importance of nutrition for children.
Food affects every realm of our lives – the physical, the social, the political and the spiritual. Food is Life. Food is the great common denominator and equaliser of the human condition.
Regardless of religion, ethnicity, history, culture, economics, time or place, everyone is united by the common need for food.
Jim Morris, former executive director of the World Food Programme, once said: “A basic meal in school is the gateway to a brighter, better and crucially, an HIV/Aids-free future.”
A well-fed world is a more productive world. A well-fed world is a just world, A well-fed world is a safer world.
Food plays a crucial role in a child’s life, especially during the first five years. Without proper food/nutrition, children are malnourished, have diarrhoeal diseases and other nutrition-related issues such as chronic anemia.
Children who go to school on an empty stomach cannot concentrate when they are at school. Due to lack of food at home, children are made to work or beg to support their families, thus depriving them of going to school. Many drop out by puberty to work or to marry to support their families.
Lack of access to nutritional food is a real issue that impacts many areas of a child’s life and has immense consequences socially and economically. The impact of inadequate access to food in childhood has detrimental lifelong effects.
Consider these facts regarding malnutrition:
- Approximately 3,1 million children die from hunger each year. (UNICEF )
- Poor nutrition caused nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five in 2011.
- 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. (UNICEF)
- Globally, 99 million under-five-year-olds were underweight in 2013, two thirds of whom lived in Asia and about one third in Africa. (UNICEF)
- Globally, 51 million under-five-year-olds were wasted and 17 million were severely wasted in 2013. (UNICEF)
- 98 million children under five years of age are underweight, or about one in every six children. Most underweight children live in Southern Asia. (World Health Organization )
- Malnourished children score 7% lower in math tests and are 19% less likely to be able to read aged 8. (Save the Children)
- Well-nourished children are 13% more likely to be in the correct grade at school, boosting lifelong skills. (Save the Children)
The Catholic Church is responding to this reality, though more can always be done.
One example of the Catholic response is in my parish. The Society of St Vincent de Paul at St Patrick’s in La Rochelle, Johannesburg, is running two soup kitchens, one at St Patrick’s and another at Our Lady of Fatima church in South Hill.
While there are a number of children being fed at South Hill, the number of children being fed at La Rochelle is still small. We want to focus on feeding more children. I might be able to obtain funding from abroad to provide food through a soup kitchen or school feeding to poor and needy children.
If you know of an area where there is a need, please contact me on 082 561 1352.
Let’s work towards creating a world where every child is fed and hunger is not tolerated.