May 14, 2010 | By Roger Thurow

Starting Early

The clamor begins just inside the door of Ridge Academy elementary school on Chicago’s south side.  Short essays and drawings shout out to all those who pass:

“Many people are dying now because of hunger.”

“In many countries, people do not have enough food or water to survive.  The most kind of people that are dying are children.  We need to get food and water to them before they die.”

“People are sick and I want to help.  If you want to make a difference, get them clean water and healthy food.  We don’t want them to die.”

“When you are hungry your tummy makes a sound.”

“In many places there are people and children who can’t drink good water.  At the school that I go to we are trying to get hungry people to get food and get safe water to drink.  Some – I mean a lot – of children and babies are dying.  That’s all folks.”

That’s all folks!  What more needs to be said?  Simple, declarative sentences from Skylar and Rebecca and Aixa and Camra and Chloe and Vinny, Tia and Joshua that are eloquent appeals to end world hunger.  They are all part of Action Against Hunger’s campaign to get even the youngest citizens involved in the clamor.

“We want to get them while they’re young, get them thinking about something beyond their own worlds,” says Barbara McKinnon of Action Against Hunger’s school campaign.

In far off places of the world, Action Against Hunger is on the front lines of the hunger battle, deploying innovations like Plumpy’nut, a peanut spread fortified with nutrients that often brings severely malnourished children back from the brink of starvation.  In the U.S., the organization is working with about 100 schools this year spreading a different kind of elixir to more fortunate children – awareness.

The educational program, now in its third year in this country, leads up to a Race Against Hunger.  It is modeled on an initiative in France (where Action Against Hunger began) that has been running for 13 years now; some 750 French schools raised about Euros 2.2 million from the races last year.  American schools, just starting out, raised $66,000.

Yesterday morning, the students of Ridge Academy began running in a light drizzle.  A clap of thunder introduced a downpour, and the runners retreated to the school.  There, the education continued.  The seventh and eighth graders presented reports on Afghanistan, and talked about hunger emergencies in other countries that have suffered wars and natural disasters.  And they talked about their three annual visits to help out at the local food pantry.

“We have a responsibility to make the world a better place,” said their teacher, Jan Cardella-Koll.

“Hunger is an issue that can be solved.  We have to talk about it,” said Ms. McKinnon.

“Just by running you’re raising awareness,” added Ms. Cardella-Koll.  “Just by talking to your parents and friends.”

She asks how many of the students will join service organizations in high school.  A forest of arms shoots up.  “I want to do something,” says one of the students.  “We take so many things for granted here.”

On the other side of the world, in Rome, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization was also urging people to do something – namely, to get angry and raise the clamor for governments to make ending hunger their top priority.

“We should be extremely angry for the outrageous fact that our fellow human beings continue to suffer from hunger,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

The FAO has launched a campaign called the “1billionhungry project.”  Its logo is a yellow whistle, encouraging people to blow the whistle against hunger by signing a petition to the governments of the world to act, particularly at the G8 meeting in Canada next month.


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1,000 Days and Migrant Stress

The first 1,000 days of a child's life is a critical time for development, where nutrition--and stability--lay the foundation for a lifetime. 

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Outrage and Inspire with Roger Thurow - Am I About to Lose My Second Child, Too?

The latest podcast in our ongoing series with Roger Thurow. Hear how even the best nutrition projects can be undermined by bad water, poor sanitation and hygiene, and lousy infrastructure.  From northern Uganda, we hear a mother’s agony when her healthy, robust child suddenly falls ill after a few sips of water…unclean water, it turned out.

Roger Thurow on SDG 2.2

Roger Thurow sat down with Farming First to talk about the individual and societal consequences of malnutrition. 




Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

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» Order your copy of the book.


The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

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The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

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Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

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