When Hunger Strikes, Food Aid Bridges the Gap

Written by
Tatum Bergen
Published on
April 25, 2023 at 4:03:00 PM PDT April 25, 2023 at 4:03:00 PM PDTth, April 25, 2023 at 4:03:00 PM PDT

Hunger is rising. This year, 350 million people in 79 countries—more than double pre-pandemic numbers—will be acutely food insecure. Amidst a hunger crisis, families need sustainable food solutions like learning how to grow nutritious veggies, but not all families have time to wait for gardens to grow.

When malnutrition threatens and disasters strike, there is an immediate need for food. Food aid sustains families between the present need and long-term, sustainable solutions.

That's why Food for the Hungry (FH) partners with Gleaners societies in Canada to ship nutrient-dense, dried soup mix to communities who need help weathering droughts, floods, or bridging the gap between planting and harvesting.

From relief in the wake of natural disaster to fighting malnutrition to easing the difficulty of a disability, emergency food aid can be lifesaving for families in times of need.

Community members in Rwanda rejoice after receiving food aid.

Meet Manyu: food aid in the wake of natural disaster

Manyu is a family man. With 10 grandchildren, five siblings, and a wife and children, there are many mouths to feed in his home in Mbale, Uganda. But Mbale is prone to natural disasters from heavy rainfall, leading to a landscape of landslides and floods. 

On July 31, 2022, a flash flood engulfed Mbale—and Manyu's home. Water poured into their family house, filling it nearly to the roof and destroying everything except a few beds. While Manyu led his family to safe, higher ground, he overlooked his home—the garden that sustained his family was destroyed. Displaced, they had no shelter for a week and went without food for even longer.

"The family was left with nothing to eat," Manyu recalls. “I had nowhere to start from, all my garden and food were submerged and washed away by the floods. We lost hope and starved." 

When FH Uganda responded to the flood crisis victims in Mbale, they provided Manyu and his family with emergency food aid.

Mbale flood victims receive emergency food aid.
 “We now feel better, we feel supported because without this intervention, we do not know where we would be."— Manyu

The food relief met them on the edge of extreme hunger, providing life-saving food to Manyu’s family, especially for his young grandchildren. Meanwhile, FH trained his family in new gardening practices and provided them with improved vegetable seeds to start a new garden to sustain themselves, again. When the food grows, they can also sell the surplus for income. 

"I am now happy that I can meet my family's immediate basic nutritional needs,” Manyu smiles. “We now feel better, we feel supported because without this intervention, we do not know where we would be."

Meet Jacinta: Food aid fights malnutrition

For many families, the food they have access to often does not contain enough nutrients to ward off malnutrition. Cheap starches like maize can make a little belly feel full but they don’t help children grow. 

Jacinta and her family eat a nutritious meal made of the dried soup mix they received from FH Guatemala.

Food aid helps mothers like Jacinta feed their children with the nutrients their bodies need. Feeding children poor diets that lack diversity can lead to critical vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Without Vitamin A, children’s immunity grows weak and they become at risk for blindness. Weak immune systems also make children susceptible to diseases that can ultimately lead to death. But veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, and kale that are high in Vitamin A fight these deficiencies. 

When poverty strains resources and inhibits families from accessing the food their children need, emergency dried soup mix packed with nutritious veggies can ward off malnutrition and keep children healthy. 

A healthy diet doesn’t just affect a child’s physical health—it also ensures their healthy mental and social development. When children's brains and bodies are healthy, they can stay focused in school, have the energy to interact with their peers, and grow into capable and functioning adults.

That is why equipping families to feed nutritious food is so important. When poverty strains resources and inhibits families from accessing the food their children need, emergency dried soup mix packed with nutritious veggies can ward off malnutrition and keep children healthy. 

"Thanks to FH for providing the dehydrated soup,” says Jacinta, “a food that contains many vitamins that are of great benefit to the body and contribute to the physical development of children."

Meet Celine: Food aid supports those living with disabilities

In rural communities in Burundi, people living with disabilities don’t have access to the support that they need. Celine, a widow with seven children, knows this well. She lives with a crippled right hand while taking care of her children on her own. You can imagine how everyday tasks can be difficult without help.

Celine can easily prepare the dried soup mix with one hand.

“I live with a right hand handicap,” Celine explains. “I have to find someone to make a fire for cooking, washing dishes, and preparing food. However, when soup is available, it is easy to cook even with one left hand because it does not oblige me to use the two hands like other food items that need to be prepared, peeled, washed, etc. I can start to prepare it and then, children can find it ready to eat when they come [home] from school. So, having the soup eased my work in terms of cooking.”

Food aid helps Celine feed her children with a nutritious, balanced diet. Cooking the soup eases the burden of preparing meals with one hand so that her children can get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Celine and her children are grateful for receiving the dried soup mix!

Food aid transforms hearts & gives food new life in Canada

In 2022, FH Canada partnered with Gleaners to send over 9,488,000 servings of soup to communities around the world. But it’s not just impacting families in need, it’s giving purpose to everyday Canadians and new life to food that would have gone to waste.

Fraser Valley Gleaners Society, established in 1999, is volunteer-run by Canadians who give their time and energy to slice, dice, scrape, and mix fresh and frozen veggies donated by produce partners. 

It’s a labour of love for the volunteers—from youth to service groups to senior citizens, knowing that their time and energy will fuel families’ futures. Together, they’ve created a community that works together for a purpose. The process of creating dried soup from fresh and frozen veggies even helps the food industry, ensuring that extra produce isn’t wasted and can be used to feed those who need it most. 

Gleaner's volunteers give their time to pack a shipping container of dried soup mix that will be shipped to FH communities in need of emergency food aid.

Whether families are in immediate need in the face of natural disasters, fighting malnutrition, living with a disability, or bridging the gap between planting and harvesting, food aid can rescue them from crisis.

You can help send emergency food aid to the most vulnerable now and fund long-term solutions like family gardens for the future! Will you join Canadians to fight hunger?

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