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Haiti: "I like school, and I like eating"

925 million around the world are hungry- that is one in seven. One in four people are undernourished, not receiving the amount of nutrients they need for energy, to work, learn or develop. Every 12 seconds, a child dies from lack of food. These statistics are heartbreaking, but in no way are they the final word. Join us this week on the Women of Vision blog for a special “Women and Hunger” week as we learn more about hunger, how it affects women and what is being done to make positive change.

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From World Vision, by Meg Sattler:

“I love eating rice, so I love the food at school,” says 7-year-old Natasha, between mouthfuls of lunch.

She’s sitting at a table in her school’s makeshift dining area, eating a meal of rice, beans, and tuna at a school feeding program in Haiti.

World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Program, provides daily hot meals to more than 230,000 children as an important part of its continuing response to the 2010 earthquake.

“After the earthquake, food needs increased. It wasn’t that there was no food, but there has been a diversion of resources,” says World Vision’s Victor Mahlalela, who coordinates the school feeding project in 214 schools in one district alone.

Instead of buying nutritious food for their families, “people are now having to use their money for other things—to rebuild, to get their lives back on track,” he continues.

Mothers in the community prepare and serve the meals of rice and beans to the children, feeding nearly 700 students on a typical school day. The mothers—who receive monthly take-home rations for their efforts—often bring meat and vegetables from their own homes to add to the rice.

“I find this program very rewarding. I have spoken to many children at schools who’ve said that they don’t have any food at home. So school feeding is very beneficial, particularly for the most vulnerable households,” Victor says.

Malnutrition in Haiti is a major concern. According to UNICEF, it is the most common cause of death among children under five.  

Natasha scrapes grains of rice from the bottom of her container.

“This is better than the food I get at home,” she says. “I have six brothers and sisters, and sometimes there isn’t enough food for us.”

The children sitting around the table eating their rice and beans today may not fully understand the nutritional benefits of regular, healthy meals, but they certainly aren’t complaining.

Seven-year-old Faradhia sums up the benefits of the program, in her own way: “ I like school, and I like eating! Thank you, I am very happy.”

Meg Sattler is a World Vision communications officer based in Haiti.

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