Mark Viso, a proud native Angeleno and CEO of Food for the Hungry, talks about hunger, malnutrition, and what motivates his organization in the fight against poverty.
Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” painting depicts one of the most peaceful scenes in American life as a family gathers around the dinner table to give thanks, eat, talk, laugh, and share their day.
I remember times like this growing up, but in today’s world of busyness and constant alerts on our smartphones, there is little time for this iconic gathering.
While that may be true in most American households, in many of the countries and contexts where Food for the Hungry (FH) works, the barriers to family dinner aren’t simply a lack of time.
Far too many families across the globe lack access to nutritious, plentiful, and affordable food. The combination of conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused global hunger and malnutrition rates to skyrocket.
The United Nations estimates that last year, 828 million people were hungry and 2.3 billion people experienced food insecurity. 149 million children under five years old suffer from stunted physical growth and cognitive development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients. Right now, 50 million people are facing famine, and malnutrition claims the life of a child every 11 seconds.
At Food for the Hungry, this reality shocks our conscience and motivates our work in the fight against poverty. These injustices call us to urgent, passionate, committed, and creative action to end hunger and malnutrition. They remind us of the need for sustainable, locally-led solutions that not only meet families’ and communities’ immediate needs, but also transform systems to build resilience to future shocks and stresses.
Building food security
One example is our work in Guatemala. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Food for the Hungry is working with communities to build food security and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable individuals and families in areas with some of the highest rates of poverty, hunger, and child malnutrition in Guatemala.
Our local staff has reached almost 8,000 families through the distribution of a fortified micronutrient soup mix used to supplement meals, alleviating hunger and addressing vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.
We support home garden development to further diversify diets, as well as hands-on training and creative cooking demonstrations that incorporate locally available and affordable ingredients and spices to create traditional and nutritious dishes.
These investments address hunger in the immediate term and give families the security to know they don’t have to go hungry in the future. With the knowledge, skills, and resources to diversify their diets and improve their nutritional status, “Freedom from Want” is within their reach.
At Food for the Hungry, we are honored to walk alongside these children, families, and communities on their journey from hunger to health, and we count ourselves privileged to sit at the table of hope alongside them. Our goal is that every family can sit down at a dinner table brimming with plentiful, nutritious foods and hope for a better, brighter future — which, after all, is the same thing we want for our own families.