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On Joy, Hunger & A Little Orange Super Hero

Food Insecure Kids in Ethiopia

When I went in search of pictures for this post it’d been at least a month since the last time I’d so much as scrolled through the folders containing the images I captured in Ethiopia. I’d forgotten how much joy there was to be had there, how much the pictures bring me now.

Sequestration and Global Hunger

You’d never know from these smiling faces that every last child we met while on the ground was food insecure. You’d never know from sitting beside their mothers at nutrition demonstrations that — as one of them told us — while they know they and their children should be eating at least twice per day there is often only enough food for one meal in any given twenty-four hour period. And a meager one at that.

And now, knowing these things, it’s sometimes hard to fathom that these kids’ aspirations include things like, “teacher”, “doctor”, “pilot”, and in one especially heartwarming case, from a domestic worker, “to help other girls like me.” They live in a perpetual state of hunger and malnutrition, but their joy and hope for the future remains unbridled.

Something that, I suppose, is not all that different from our own kids, those who have high hopes of professional sports careers and flying to the moon even when they lack athleticism or whatever it is NASA is looking for in astronauts these days. Which is why I’m partnering with ONE and an incredible group of food bloggers today to celebrate a tiny, orange super hero: the sweet potato.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Cheap, common, and relatively obscure, sweet potatoes don’t get their fair share of praise in the average American household. Their most prized contribution oft being to a meal where a golden-brown turkey takes the show, they’re relegated to the background, prepped on the back burner and blanketed in marshmallows before making it to the table. In the developing world however, sweet potatoes are more akin to a super food than a lowly tuber whose best scene is as a supporting side dish.

The truth is sweet potatoes are packed with nutrition and will grow almost anywhere, but tend to do especially well in the soils and climates of some of the poorest nations on earth; those where nearly 2 million children per year die due to a lack of food. This is why ONE has been working around the clock to make Sweet Potatoes the center piece of Thrive, their campaign against hunger. We know the sweet potato’s adaptability is one of the most important factors in how well it can help reduce hunger and combat the effects — fatal and otherwise — of malnutrition, because investments in agriculture are twice as effective at reducing poverty and hunger than any other investments.

If you’ve been around here long you may remember when I travelled to DC last fall to help ONE lobby our nation’s leaders in an effort to avoid the fiscal cliff. You may also remember the piece I wrote explaining why cuts to foreign aid are non-partisan and threaten the very threads that make up the cloth of both our political parties. The good news is that we were “successful” in avoiding the fiscal cliff, the bad news is that it simply became more of a large fiscal hill and we’re still rolling down the far side. The cuts, tax hikes, and other financial nasties didn’t happen all at once, but we’re still not guaranteed to avoid them altogether and once again, we’re staring down the business end of sequestration.

The position we find ourselves in today is much like the one we were in between Christmas and the New Year; if Congress fails to act within the next few days we’ll enter sequestration and across the board budget cuts will literally become a life and death matter for millions of women and children who depend on programs our government supports. Support that comes at a tune of less than 1% of our annual budget.

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