Answers from a food aid expert (Part 1)

To mark World Food Day, October 16, we asked you earlier this week to share your questions about food aid -- its complexities, and its implications on economic development and child health. This is part 1 of a 2-part series of responses to those questions from Paul Macek, World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition.

Paul leads a team of specialized program officers who focus on food security, livelihoods, economic development, nutrition, agriculture, and environment. Paul has degrees in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Arts in international affairs with concentrations in international development and political economy from American University in Washington, D.C.

Part 2 will be posted on Monday, October 17. Read the post that started this: Ask an expert about food aid.

Paul Macek is World Vision's senior director of integrated food and nutrition.

FROM STEPHANIE: I would like to know your approach to the tension between feeding children with no strings attached (religious or political) but still making the most of the feeding connection to ensure children get the tools they need to grow up and break out of the poverty cycle.

World Vision provides assistance regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. We focus on changing the behavior of parents and guardians of children to ensure that they know how best to feed and nurture their children. Often with new mothers, we focus on basic messages of proper breastfeeding and weaning practices and balanced nutrition for the entire family. In our agricultural programs, we focus on providing farmers with the right information and strategies to improve their crop productivity.

FROM DENISE: What is in the food in the tubes that I saw recently at my church in a film by World Vision?

That was probably a specially formulated therapeutic food, which we use in our community programs to help malnourished children recover. The food is easy to swallow and digest for malnourished children. It’s amazing. Through proper use, you can rehabilitate a sick child in less than one month.

FROM AMY: Recently, my husband and I discussed making a bigger contribution to World Vision after I was sickened watching a report about a man who was asking for financial advice. The man had $10 million in mutual funds…when you know that there are people out there who can put a huge dent in the needs that World Vision works so hard to try to meet, how does that make you feel?

Amy, I spent 14 years of my life working in Africa with some very destitute populations -- internally displaced people, victims of sexual violence, and people on their deathbeds suffering from starvation and AIDS. Part of me feels that I have seen some of the worst that the world has to offer -- but I also respect the choices and freedom that every American has in the things they buy, eat, and charities they choose to support. At every opportunity, I try to educate people to the needs in the world, and pray that they will find it in their heart to reach out and support. A small contribution can go a long way. For example, supporting school feeding programs is one of the best investments out there, because you can provide an incentive through a hot meal or take-home food packet to get girls into school and help them to stay alert and retain more from their lessons. Our USDA McGovern-Dole program in Afghanistan has done a phenomenal job educating girls and helping mothers to become literate. (See the answer to the next question for more information.)

FROM ANONYMOUS: What are some of the best success examples in your past?

The education of children and youth is at the heart of sustainable development, and World Vision’s goal is that they are educated for life -- an imperative for child well-being and fullness of life. Over the course of four years -- and with $28 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) -- World Vision has implemented food-for-education projects to increase enrollment in primary schools through the distribution of a nutritious take-home ration that is linked to attendance rates. To date, the quality of education and associated infrastructure has been improved through the building of 37 schools in Afghanistan's Badghis and Ghor provinces, as well as adult literacy classes that reached 5,176 students in the 2009 school year. Attendance of girls has improved by 98 percent.

FROM CARRIE: What can one regular person do to make an impact in the crisis of severe hunger or famine? What is the most effective way for someone like me to help?

You’ve already done the most important thing, which is to become interested and concerned with this issue. Our elected officials, religious leaders, and neighbors need to understand the scale of global hunger and how important it is to tackle. Next, we need to create the resources to fund the right solutions. This can come from our own pockets through contributions to World Vision, but it can also come when we advocate to our lawmakers on behalf of those suffering from hunger. Some of the best solutions to this crisis are inexpensive and well-known -- like exclusively breastfeeding newborns under 6 months of age, complete immunization, and de-worming, among others. At the cost of a few dollars per child, we can save millions of lives.

Do you have more questions about food aid and other humanitarian aid topics including disaster response, and current crises like the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa? Help create our next "ask" topic by leaving them in the comments section for us.


    Food for the body is important but I think food for the soul (Bible), the Word of God, means the difference between eternity either in Heaven or eternity in Hell.

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