In 1963, President Kennedy said: “Children are the world’s most valuable resource, and its best hope for the future.” His words could not be truer today, as the future of millions of children is at stake because they don’t have enough to eat.
By the end of 2022, up to 60 million children could be severely malnourished — more than the entire population of California and New York combined. Unless rapid action is taken, we are truly at risk of losing our best hope for the future. This is not hyperbole: 45% of deaths among children under the age of 5 are caused by malnutrition.
As the world’s largest hunger-relief organization, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) delivers food to more than 120 million people a year; 58% of them are children.
The world is grappling with an unprecedented hunger crisis, and humanitarian needs are rapidly outpacing our supply of the highly specialized foods these women and children require. The cost of these products has increased over 20% this year due to the war in Ukraine, which could force us to suspend service to more than 1 million of the world’s most vulnerable children. That’s why we are urgently calling for more funding to continue our two most vital, child-focused programs: school meals and First 1,000 Days.
Investing in school meals
The U.N. World Food Programme is the planet’s largest provider of school meals, and the positive ripple effects are astounding, from nutrition and healthcare to agriculture systems and economic wellbeing. Free school lunches also promote gender equality in parts of the world where women and girls are most marginalized. When girls stay in school longer, they delay pregnancy and marriage, which increases their odds of becoming self-reliant, contributing to local economies, and giving birth to healthier babies.
These are just a few reasons why school meals programs are quickly becoming the world’s most extensive social safety net. In fact, more than 80% of our programs have been incorporated into national policies. Yet there is still an immense amount of work to be done. More than 70 million children across 60 countries live in extreme poverty and don’t have access to school meals.
The first 1,000 days
Nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life — from pregnancy to their second birthday — determines the course of their future. Without enough nutrient-dense food, children face irreversible damage to their mental and physical development.
That’s why we design education programs and food items specifically to treat and prevent malnutrition in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and infants. These interventions can bring them back from the brink of starvation and put them on the road to prosperity.
WFP also works to eradicate the root causes of childhood hunger by working closely with local governments to build long-term solutions that live at the intersection of gender norms, poverty, climate change, and inequality. We collaborate with partners across industries who help integrate nutritional goals into complementary programs and are able to influence the global conversation about food and nutrition policy. When you feed a child, you feed their future too. There is no better investment, and the need has never been greater. To support WFP’s efforts to ensure no child goes hungry, please click here.