As a clinical nutritionist, I spend my days reminding my patients of the virtues of balancing protein and carbohydrates, eating organic when possible, and having a good breakfast. They are often in search of losing a few pounds, lowering cholesterol, and preventing such maladies as heart disease and diabetes.
Earlier this week, at the Conversation About World Hunger and the Economic Turndown event at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, I was reminded that for one out of every seven people in the world, the idea of nutrition is simply to have any food to eat. I frequently inform parents that a high sugar breakfast can affect their child's concentration in school (let alone their health). However, in impoverished communities, school is often missed because of a lack of food. If a child doesn't get food in the morning, they simply cannot go to school because they can barely think. Children often spend the day in search for food. You can see how food is essential to getting a basic education. And a basic education is often a child's only way out of poverty.
I accepted the invitation to this event because I appreciate the opportunity to support a good cause. To be perfectly honest, I was prepared to hear overwhelming statistics about world hunger and feel like there was no real solution. I was ready to kick in a few bucks so I would feel like I was doing something.
I wasn't prepared to actually be inspired. However, I found the opposite to be true. What I learned that evening is that the issue of world hunger is solvable, and the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) is hot on the trail.
Arianna Huffington did a brilliant job of moderating the event as she sparked a thought-provoking discussion among WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, Actress and WFP Ambassador Against Hunger Drew Barrymore, and the audience.
Drew Barrymore was quite impressive. She was wonderfully spirited and articulate as she shared her passion and what she believes to be her life's mission: to make sure that no child is hungry. She spent time in Africa, learning about WFP, getting involved politically, and filming a documentary.
What is extraordinary about Drew's involvement is that she has truly earned her title as WFP's Ambassador. She spent time in the trenches in third world countries with conviction and commitment. She is not a mere figurehead--she's the real deal.
During her presentation, Drew proudly held WFP's famous red cup, the cup that feeds children around the globe. She explained that 25 cents a day is all it takes to make sure a child is fed. The audience was captivated. Holding the red cup and knowing that what is inside actually saves lives was a very powerful symbol. It was the connection between the comfortably-seated audience and the hungry child on the other end.
The tirelessly dedicated Josette Sheeran shared with us the risks that WFP takes to deliver the food to those in need. WFP goes into approximately 80 countries to deliver food. The people who deliver the food deal with war zones, political conflict, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. They use whatever transportation they can to deliver: helicopters, boats, donkeys, elephants, and camels.
Josette really got the audience's attention when she presented the fact that it takes only three billion dollars a year to make sure no child in the world goes to school hungry.
Only three billion? Check out the reality-check PSA where Sean Penn compares three billion to other expenses such as the economic bailout:
Oh, those Wall Street bonuses could be put to good use....
Call To Action
The audience was an eclectic mix of several hundred entertainment industry folks and two adorable kids. After the presentation, members of the audience asked questions which prompted a discussion about a call to action. The question from a young boy really got the discussion going. He asked, "How do you motivate kids who have plenty of food to care about kids who need food?" He shared how he goes to a school where kids spend money so easily and don't seem to be in touch with the need to help and lack the knowledge of how to help.
Drew's already strong passion was amped by this boy's spirit. She invited him to brainstorm with her for ways to reach young people and make ending world hunger as cool as having the latest version of the ipod. The young man didn't hesitate to accept Drew's invitation.
World Food Programme
Some quick facts about the World Food Programme:
It is the largest humanitarian organization and the United Nations' frontline agency mandated to combat global hunger.
In 2008, WFP reached 102 million beneficiaries in 78 countries with 3.9 million tons of food.
WFP keeps their overhead low. 93 cents of every dollar goes directly to getting food to those who need it.
WFP is not just helping people who are hungry today by providing food. They have developed strategies to ensure long-term food production by working with and training local farmers to grow food. There's that "teaching them to fish vs. just giving them fish" idea at its best.
WFP relies entirely on voluntary contributions.
Spreading the Word
You can learn more about how to fill the red cup and stop hunger in its tracks at wfp.org. You can become a Facebook friend of WFP or follow them on Twitter so you don't ever forget about this important issue. Maybe Drew will start twittering and keep us posted on her philanthropic adventures. Tweets to remind us of what's important. Instead of being bombarded with useless trivia, I'd rather be regularly reminded to feed the children.
Follow Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drpatriciafitz