According to the UN World Food Programme, nearly one billion people live in chronic hunger today—around one in seven people on earth. Deprived of proper nutrition, malnourished children are especially vulnerable to common diseases such as measles and diarrhea. Each year, around six million children die as a direct result of poor nutrition, accounting for half of all child deaths. In the developing world, hunger poses a major obstacle to economic progress. 98% of the world’s hungry live in developing countries, with two-thirds living in just seven countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Surprisingly, there is actually enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life. The key problem is lack of access to food. Even in developed countries where chronic hunger is not a widespread problem, many families and communities suffer from insufficient availability of food, a problem known as “food insecurity.” Many Rotary clubs have undertaken projects to alleviate hunger in their communities by improving access to food. This can involve creation or support of food banks or food pantries, community gardens, and distribution programs that bring food to children, seniors, and others in need of special assistance. Following are some examples of effective and replicable Rotary hunger projects:
· Using a Community Needs Assessment, the Rotary Club of Madison-Gluckstadt, Mississippi, USA, decided to make a difference in the community by contributing a month’s supply of food to a local food pantry. A local grocery store provided the club with many empty grocery bags and the club prepared lists of food products needed for the food pantry and stapled one to each bag. The bags were distributed to each club member and to their neighbors, and by the end of the food drive, 77 bags of groceries were given to the pantry.
· The Rotary Club of Paonia, Colorado, USA realized that many of the local school children that rely on free school lunch programs did not have enough food on weekends and holidays. The club responded by mobilizing the community to raise funds and collect more than 400 pounds of food donations. The club provided hundreds of take-home food baskets to the children over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and has since found project champions in the community to continue the program.
· The Rotary Club of Prapatan-Dharmawangsa, in West Java, Indonesia, installed a hydroponic rooftop garden at a local orphanage. The garden grows vegetables without the use of land or soil, and it was built using all locally available materials. The children at the orphanage were trained to garden and maintain the hydroponics system, making this project sustainable. The vegetables provide a valuable source of supplementary food and income for the orphanage.
· The Rotary Club of Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA, wanted to help provide healthy food to local families that faced hardship due to rising unemployment. With the assistance of local charitable organizations and food banks, the club packages and distributes containers of fruits and vegetables each month to hundreds of residents and their families in need of food aid to improve their nutrition. The club has also established community gardens to grow vegetables and provide recipients with information on how to maintain gardens at home to further supplement their diets.
· The Rotarian Action Group for the Alleviation of Hunger and Malnutrition (H&MRAG) partnered with several Rotary clubs in District 3230, India, and various local organizations to conduct the “Rotary Paapa” (“Rotary Child”) project. The project has provided 60 malnourished children under five years of age with regular supplemental nutrition. Medical examinations performed six months after the project launch showed significant improvement in the children’s weight, general health and activity. The mothers also receive counseling on age-appropriate nutrition, to ensure that their children will continue to have a healthy diet even after the food supplement program concludes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations observes 16 October as World Food Day to heighten awareness of the global hunger crisis and encourage action. Rotary clubs may wish to take some time during this week to consider ways that they can help fight hunger in their communities. If your club or district has conducted an effective or innovative hunger project, please consider sharing your story by submitting a project description for inclusion in RI’s ProjectLINK database.
submitted by Amanda Runge – RI Staff