Anne Frank once said that Hunger is not a problem, it is an obscenity, I couldn’t agree more. Hunger is a universal concept that has taken roots in every nation, wherever you find a lot of people, you will discover even more hungry people. When we listen to the news and hear reports of how the government or some organizations spend billions to fight hunger, we often feel a sense of sympathy for “those” who are hungry. Subconsciously, we feel it is their problem and not ours. This nonchalant attitude has become the bedrock on which the misconception of hunger is founded upon.
As opposed to popular opinion, hunger isn’t a problem for a select group of people. It may affect a particular spectrum of society directly (the poor and disadvantaged), but its long-term effect resonates in every home, city, and country in the world. If you are not hungry, there is a high chance that you may be attacked by a hungry person who has lost hope. So, you see, it’s everyman’s problem, and until we collectively make up our minds to fight it, we will remain victims of its repercussions.
The United Nations Organization has been spearheading the fight against hunger through its Food and Agriculture Organization; the annual World Food Day celebration is one of the avenues through which awareness is raised on hunger-related issues. There are over 815 million people in the world, and one in ten people suffer from chronic undernourishment. As staggering as these figures are, the world still feels relaxed in the fight against hunger. There is widespread concern about hunger in the world but what about our home? What about Nigeria?
Founded on July, 4th 2012, FoodClique Support Initiative has been the leading proponent in the fight against hunger in Nigeria. With over 1,550 volunteers, they are focused on the distribution of food items, reduction of food waste and educating the public on the problems that hunger breeds. Through strategic and sustainable community programs, they have been able to provide food to over 24,000 individuals, a feat that received commendation from the World Food Program (WFP) and other prominent international hunger eradication organizations. One of their community programs has made an impressive impact on children; The Free School Meal Program.
When a child is hungry, he/she turns to the family unit for satisfaction, when such fulfillment isn’t derived from home, the child turns to the streets. The street may offer temporary solace from hunger, but that comes with negative influence. On the other hand, if the child gets relief from hunger at school, that child will be enthusiastic about learning, stay hopeful and turn away from the streets. It is with this understanding of the connection between the classroom and the child that FoodClique Support Initiative launched The Free School Meal Program in 2013 with Ansarudeen and Ebute Metta primary schools in Lagos State.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, FoodClique provides free energy-rich biscuits, nutritious drinks, noodles and milk to pupils from Nursery one to Primary two across schools. Interestingly, on Fridays, the best three pupils from each class are given a take-home ratio pack containing food items for the family as an incentive for good behavior.
Five schools have benefited from this program thus far, and there have been a 13% increase in attendance in the schools and a record 100% in punctuality. With approval from the State Universal Basic Education Board in Lagos State, The Free School Meal Program compliments the efforts of diligent teachers and schools by ensuring that the average child has the best of both worlds, food, and education.
For this program to remain sustainable, it requires funding. Volunteers and kind-hearted individuals contribute their quota to making the program a successful one. This year, FoodClique has received two major grants; the first from Basheer Tosin Ashafa Foundation and Cantagali. While the second is from Share Your Bread Foundation, these grants made it possible for FoodClique to expand the Free School Meal Program to more schools. The collaboration with organizations such as Cantagali shows the miles we can cover on this long walk to eradicating hunger.
You may not have the capacity to feed a thousand children, but you do have the ability to feed one child. If we commit to feeding children both intellectually and physically, through the Free School Meal Program, we will be contributing our quota to the efforts made all over the world by taking kids off the street while putting smiles on their faces. We will never know what it means to be truly free as a people until we birth a hunger-free world.
*For information on how you can volunteer or donate towards the Free School Meal Program, please visit www.foodclique.org