One such story is of hip-hop artist Sister Fa and her efforts to stop the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in her home country of Senegal. From her early days as an unpolished music phenom, through a career-reinvention in Berlin, Sister Fa has continually smashed barriers in the male-dominated hip-hop world. But as the stirring documentary Sarabah reveals, her strength of character was forged in a journey of hardship and transformation. Now, with the support of her husband and child, Sister Fa speaks out about her own experience as a survivor of FGC, and travels with her band to rural Senegal, where she launches a music-packed education campaign that culminates in an emotional visit to her home village. Sister Fa will be joining Link for a LIVE web chat following the broadcast and online presentation of Sarabah Sunday, March 4 at 11am PT/2pm ET, to take questions about her story and important work.Questions can be posted in advance here.
These stories are so important, and sharing them is what fosters action and change. So tune in to Link TV (DISH 9410 DIRECTV 375) from March 1-8 to honor women around the globe. You'll see issues and perspectives uncovered and unseen on any other media outlets. Watch as Iranian women activists risk their safety to confront political candidates, and Western women trade their comfortable lives for experiences as Tribal Wives. Find out what it takes To Educate a Girl in Nepal and Uganda, and follow Nigerian doctors, midwives and families to the frontlines of maternal care. And of course -- tune in to the hit Danish drama Borgen, the TV show currently on American airwaves that showcases a female head of state.
For more information on these programs and ways to get involved in Link's efforts to lift women globally, please visit linktv.org/women
This week, we had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Sharon Norton, Director of Development at the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition. Link Media is collaborating with the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition this year to raise awareness about global hunger and malnutrition through Revolution Hunger. Revolution Hunger is a unique campaign that harnesses the power of teens across the United States to take on the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world.
Hi Sharon. Thanks for joining us to talk about your work. First and foremost, what is the mission of the Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, and what type of work does it do?
Our mission is creating lasting solutions that enable nutritional well-being in children. Our work is focused on children under the age of five and particularly those under the age of two. The provision of proper nutrition to this difficult to reach and often overlooked age group can help prevent stunting, improve cognitive outcomes, and ensure more positive health consequences for life.
In terms of hunger and malnutrition, what are the major challenges happening globally?
Overall, the majority of our work is aimed at resolving hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals that can lead to physical and cognitive afflictions. In Central America for example, there is a dire need for nutritional intervention to alleviate hidden hunger as evidenced by the average prevalence of 23.5% stunting regionally. Stunting is essentially where children do not grow to their potential in height and Guatemala and Honduras top the list with 54.5% and 30.1%, respectively, in stunted children under the age of 5. Moreover, anemia, iodine and/or vitamin deficiencies affect over 16 million young children and 5 million pregnant women in this region. This is a significant issue as those affected by micronutrient deficiency worldwide exceeds two billion. Dietary deficiencies are borne disproportionately by children, mothers, and those living in rural communities. Resolution of these deficiencies will result in improved health outcomes for children and mothers.
How did you find your way to the position you now hold? How do you feel personally connected to this cause?
I think it has been the combination of an open mind, a spirit of discovery and skills that had the potential for broad application. When I entered college, I was 100% sure I wanted to be a veterinarian, then I started taking nutrition classes and learned that I loved nutrition, ration formulation and working with large animals. That took me into an entirely different career, but my degree in nutrition has allowed me to work in a number of different nutrition related sectors. Today, at the Mathile Institute I am using my nutritional training to help resolve malnutrition in children. But I also get to apply other skills I picked up while working in the packaged goods sector such as technical communications and consumer understanding methodologies. My personal connection to my work stems from my belief in the "Golden Rule" -- treating others as we would wish to be treated. I believe in treating people with dignity and respect and, for children, I believe that includes their right to a healthy diet.
You have the amazing opportunity to learn about a lot of positive work happening in the field around this cause. What is one of the most inspiring stories you have come across recently?
I was incredibly inspired by an experience I had not long ago in El Salvador. We met with FUSAL, a private non-profit organization in El Salvador that channels the experience and social responsibility of a committed Salvadoran business family. This family has solidarity with the most vulnerable people in society and are dedicated to human development, which is why health and education are at the core of their non-profit organization's work. I had the opportunity to visit one of FUSAL's project sites in a rural community. The community workers were teaching the mothers about nutrition and health, demonstrating how to prepare more nutritious meals and ways to provide their babies stimulation to enhance cognitive development. I was so inspired by the sense of community, kindness and the care among these women and among those that were serving them. It was an example of the kind of humanity and action that we need to solve the problem of hunger in this world.
Another story that continually moves me the life and work of Dr. Norman Borlaug. This one, soft-spoken man, with humble, Midwestern roots, was able to change the world through his Green Revolution, an agricultural initiative, which increased crop yields so countries could feed their people. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to ending hunger. Norman Borlaug has been credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. Knowing that one person can make that type of impact is personally inspiring.
What does "under-nutrition" mean to you? Where is this happening?
Many people may hear the word undernutrition and think this means not having enough food or calories. While that is one form of undernutrition, hidden hunger that I described earlier is another and very prevalent form. But even in the developed world, we see undernutrition due to the inability to access nutritious food. While some of this is linked to poverty, many with the financial means and ability to access a healthy diet make poor food choices. They often do not consume enough of the foods they need to derive important nutrients needed for health. The bottom line is, undernutrition is a global epidemic and the first step in ending it is awareness of the issue and the causes.
Your organization has just launched a new initiative called "Revolution Hunger," what ignited your interest in an initiative that mobilizes teens?
I am really excited about this initiative and it was actually inspired by Norman Borlaug. He dedicated his life to fighting hunger around the world. His skill, passion and deep respect for communities in the developing world ignited a global movement that would feed billions worldwide. The spirit of Revolution Hunger was born out of his example and is a campaign that arms teens with information about hunger's causes and solutions and challenges them with calls to action to fight the issue. Everyone has a role and everyone can be a hunger fighter through Revolution Hunger.
What do you hope to see as a result of the work of your organization?
We hope that through our collaborative effort we will alleviate malnutrition and put an end, once and for all to the 25,000 daily deaths that result from hunger-related issues. We believe that capacity-building with initiatives like Revolution Hunger are part of the answer. We also are confident that our approach to establishing new nutritional innovations coupled with community awareness and education programs, relevant behavior change initiatives, and ongoing engagement of community leaders will produce scalable and sustainable solutions.
How can others get involved in what you do?
For teens go to revolutionhunger.org and learn what it takes to become a hunger fighter. Watch the video, take a personality quiz and begin the journey to face, fight and live the battle to fight hunger. Participate in activities to fight hunger in your local community and beyond. For adults, I would also suggest visiting revolutionhunger.org to not only learn more about hunger but also what you can do to become a teen advocate. If you are a teacher, we also have begun to develop case studies that can give students the opportunity to explore and tackle real issues in the classroom. I hope everyone will join the fight and join the revolution!
On our last couple days of programming for World Food Week, Link TV spoke with co-founder of FoodCorps, Curt Ellis. Want to get inspired and spread the word about taking real action in communities around food justice? Read this interview. And continue to visit our food page for "Hungry Planet" airtimes, to watch programs online, and to learn more about these critical issues.
Hello Curt, thanks for joining us. Could you tell us a little bit about FoodCorps and how your organization specifically works to fight hunger?
FoodCorps works with a network of young leaders around the country in a kind of Peace Corps for healthy school food. Our service members teach children about healthy food and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens that help kids to grow and cook healthy food themselves, and work with school food service staff and local farmers to bring high-quality food into school lunch. Taken together, these three things -- knowledge, engagement and access -- address two big problems at once: childhood hunger and childhood obesity. It sounds paradoxical, but those two problems are closely linked. Kids who don't have reliable access to healthy food don't get a balanced diet, and all too rarely get reliable access to healthy fruits and vegetables -- so food insecure populations are often the ones with the highest rates of both hunger and obesity. As we see it, school is the best place to start fixing both these problems: 32 million children eat roughly half of their calories 180 days of the year in school. In helping to make that food fresher and healthier, we're setting kids on a path out of hunger and into lifelong health.
Food Corps does a lot of work with youth. What do you think the importance of working with youth around this issue is?
We have a serious health crisis in this country, and it's directly related to the food we eat. Studies show that the relationships we build with food -- healthy or unhealthy -- start in childhood. Children who are eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, as children will grow up to be adults who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. And, likewise, children who grow up being served fast food in their school cafeterias will feed their own families' fast food someday. If we help kids understand from an early age that healthy food tastes good, that it's fun to grow and prepare, that it makes you feel good, and that it doesn't have to be out of reach financially, we can put powerful and positive change into motion.
What would you say are the current root causes or main factors that contribute to hunger both within the United States and globally?
Unfortunately, much of the food that is seen as affordable in America -- fast food, processed food -- is also some of the least healthy. So we have a shocking number of people in our country who are simultaneously obese and malnourished. Until we have solved problems of access to fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high-quality protein -- both in terms of physical access and financial access -- we'll continue to have these problems of hunger and obesity.
As I see it, if that solution is going to start anywhere, it's going to start in our schools. My grandparents' generation made an important decision: that the children in our country should have lunch in school, so we can be sure they all have an opportunity to get at least one healthy meal a day. Now, with the addition of school breakfast and after-school snack, school food is even more important than it was a generation or two ago. But the food we're serving kids these days looks all too much like fast food, and too little like carrots. We need to change what's on the lunch tray and make sure the tools we're using to fight hunger -- like school lunch -- are really solving the problem they set out to fix.
What do you think are the most pertinent problems in the food industry today?
For a long time, the food industry -- and its consumers -- prioritized quantity over quality. I applaud the efforts to give all people access to an abundant food supply, but I think we took that ideal too far. It's hard to think of anything more important than food, yet we don't treat food, or farmers, with the respect they deserve. I think the food we produce and consume as a nation should have integrity. It should be grown and processed in an ecologically sustainable way, by farmers and workers who are compensated fairly, it should be safe and healthy for people to eat, and it should be accessible to all -- even the least fortunate members of our society. I think those are standards that are important to uphold for something as fundamental as the food we eat. And if we live out those ideals, hunger won't be a problem anymore. Diet-related disease won't be a problem anymore. We won't see Florida tomato growers getting brought to trial on charges of slavery in the fields. And the soil we depend on will continue producing high-quality food for eons to come.
What are the advantages of eating locally grown foods?
Locally grown foods are fresher, so in most cases they'll taste better and be more nutritious to boot. Vitamins are fragile, so vegetables that are trucked long distances can lose half their nutrient content! Also, sourcing locally grown food keeps a huge amount of money in the local economy, and the reduction in transportation reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on oil. In some ways, though, I think the most important thing that comes from eating locally is the sense that food comes from somewhere. That it's grown by someone. And that's a reminder that those people and places matter.
You've also co-created a few documentaries. Can you give our readers a synopsis of those films and how they relate to food?
Before joining the effort to start FoodCorps, I got to collaborate on a few films that explored the food world. I worked with Ian Cheney and Aaron Woolf on a documentary called King Corn, which was about a year we spent in Iowa growing an acre of corn (well, an acre of corn syrup and corn-fed fast-food meat, as it turned out). I worked with those two again on a follow-up to King Corn called Big River, which explored the ecological consequences of modern agriculture. And then I helped Ian make a film about the wacky and amazing people who are bringing farming into urban places. That film was called Truck Farm, and it starts with a project we did planting a vegetable garden in the back of an '86 Dodge Pickup. You can find the first couple films on Netflix, and the third on Amazon.
How can people help alleviate hunger both on an individual and societal level?
That's a big question, and if it could be answered in a paragraph I think someone would have done so already. But I'll highlight a few things. On the individual level, I think it's important that we learn -- and help others learn -- how to grow and cook healthy, affordable food. During World War II, home gardeners were producing more than half of America's food. There's no reason we shouldn't be planting our window boxes and truck beds and vacant lots in healthy, high-quality, incredibly affordable food. On the societal level, we have some powerful building blocks for creating a healthy food environment for all. The national school lunch program is a powerful place to start. If we use that existing program as a way to make sure all children in America grow up having regular access to real, healthy food, we'll go a long way toward solving hunger in America.
What role does independent media play in raising awareness about these issues?
The mainstream media has really embraced food as an important issue in the last decade, and that's been great to see. Unfortunately, before that, I think they were missing much of the story, and it was independent outlets that were the first to highlight the way that food shapes our environment, our health and our sense of justice and equality.
What changes do you hope to see in the next 50 years?
Most importantly, I'd like to see us reverse the present statistic that this generation of children is the first that is likely to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. In fifty years I hope we have healthier children: children who feel connected to their food and have an enduring and healthy relationship with it.
I hope we can come together as a nation around the simple belief that food is important. That it's important enough that no child should go hungry. That it's important enough that it should be produced responsibly, sustainably, and ethically. That it should be available to all. If we can do that, I'll feel pretty good about our ability to solve some of the other tough problems we're facing as a society.
How can someone get involved in your organization or work?
For young leaders, the best way to get involved is to apply to become a service member in FoodCorps; applications for next year's class will be available this winter. For everyone else, if you support FoodCorps with a financial contribution, no matter how small, you can help us meet our goal of expanding our program into all 50 states by 2020. With your help, we can make sure more than a million kids are eating healthy, high-quality school lunch every day.
A message from Link TV's President & CEO, Paul S. Mason:
Like all of you, I have watched the tragedy of famine as it continues to threaten the lives of millions in the Horn of Africa. I've watched and read the news reports, and I've followed the efforts of humanitarian groups and governments as they supply aid to millions of people in need. And now, as we prepare to recognize World Food Day on October 16, the urgency is particularly acute. The world is in a recession, and extreme weather patterns -- drought and more -- will likely increase. Status quo will not be enough to avert further crises -- we must do better.
In recognition of this global crisis, Link TV has teamed up with international relief and development organization, Oxfam America, to produce a half-hour documentary special that examines possible solutions to famine and hunger around the world:
ViewChange: Africa's Last Famine features the story of an Ethiopian farmer, Medhin Reda, and interviews with Francis Moore Lappé, humanitarian, activist and bestselling author of Diet for a Small Planet. The show takes a hard stance on food justice and disputes the notion that famine is simply caused by a lack of food in the global supply. According to Moore Lappé in the documentary, "the world produces more than enough for all of us to thrive...the real crisis is the crisis of human relationships, how we share in power."
I hope you will join us in watching the show online or on Link TV, in spreading the word to others, and in joining Oxfam America's efforts to end global hunger. Please sign Oxfam's pledge and click here for more information about what you can do.
In this next addition to our World Food Week blog series on key people in the field tackling hunger, we talked with Tekiah Jones, a 17-year-old High School Student from Washington DC. She works as the New Media Producer on a campaign called Revolution Hunger. Link Media is working in partnership with Revolution Hunger to engage teens and their communities around hunger and malnutirition at home and around the world. Continue to visit our food page for "Hungry Planet" airtimes, to watch programs online, and to find out what you can do.
Hi Tekiah, thanks for being a part of this interview! First and foremost, how did you first learn about this issue of hunger?
It was actually through Revolution Hunger. I had seen the position online from a friend, so I applied for it, but I didn't know much about hunger. I remember seeing commercials with children in Africa with flies on their face, but that's all. I didn’t know much about it, and didn't learn about it until I joined the campaign.
You are a part of this campaign, Revolution Hunger. Can you tell me a bit about it?
Revolution Hunger is a campaign that is trying to get more teens involved in bringing awareness about world hunger, and hunger here at home. We are really dedicated to trying to get people involved and dedicating their future careers to helping to solve it.
What is your role in the campaign?
My role as New Media Producer is to really expand out the mission and vision of Revolution Hunger, (we in the DC area -- District of Columbia, Virginia, Marylan) -- and to reach teens in schools, and in our community using new media and online tools. We are using social media to get the word out, especially because that's where young people are at. I also work with the Regional Coordinator and we do some outreach projects together, like organizing a youth team in DC, attending events, and doing in school presentations. I write blogs and do things that are online, to really reach out to people and show them what we’re doing, though the new media age.
How do you think new media can impact and engage teens in learning about this issue?
To me, all teens are on their phones and the computer at some point in the day. All of our networks are on the new Android or EVO, and people are on Twitter or Facebook, so the best way to really get to teens is to blog and Tweet and get on their Tumblr accounts. I think that when you use something that teens go to every day, that's what will maximize our impact. When the Tsunamis hit a couple years ago, people weren't talking about Twitter, but people on Twitter were the first to talk about it. I think New Media can take organizing to a new age, and it already is. It's so much more accessible to click on a link. It helps teens get more involved, and allows them to learn about something new. Even in our school, we don't hand in paper assignments, we send them online. With so much online, you don't have an excuse not to be involved. With Revolution Hunger, we are trying to get kids engaged both online and then to get off their computers and go do something positive.
How can teens get involved?
Go to revolutionhunger.org and create an account! Teens can start educating people about hunger, blogging about it themselves, and make it a trending topic. When you start getting into it it, really consumes you. When you know that every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger, that's a big thing. The ways that teens can get involved is starting up a club at their school to bring awareness to global issues and hunger. Really just educating each other about it. Not enough people really know about it yet, or care about it. Going up to your friends and talking about it, wearing t-shirts from our campaign, or re-Tweeting our posts help a lot. I have so much more knowledge about the issue. To me, it seems so much greater than the presidential debate.
What is your vision for the future?
For the campaign, I wanted to go viral like the Trevor Project. I would have expected it to start, we're later in the year. I wanted people to be like "have you heard about this campaign?", or one of those things where people are like "are you going to that event today? I want to help out." I really want people to get involved in hunger. People are living off absolutely nothing and don't have anything to eat. We make a big deal out of a new Walmart, but there are people starving.
I want to see lots of people involved. I want to see it on the Ellen show. I want it to go viral so badly. I want people to see it and see the pretty colors and really get into it, into Revolution Hunger. But more then that, make a life long commitment to stay involved and do your part.
What do you hope to see in your community and around the world?
In my community, I hope to see more people getting along with each other, and less hungry people. I want everyone to get along in the different quadrants. There's all this hatred, gang violence, people getting shot or stabbed, fighting in high school, and poverty. I want people to understand we have bigger issues than what hood you're from or who said what at lunch. We have some many bigger problems in DC alone, like hunger or our education system. I want to really be one of those communities where everyone helps each other out.
In the world I want the same things on a bigger scales. Like the wars, people don't know about each other's cultures. I want people to get to know about different world religions and cultures. Different cultures. I want everyone to be a part of fixing social injustices. Hunger is one of those. I really want everyone to just love everyone, to love humanity. That's my wish, that's what I want.