Healthy Eating

February 3, 2016
2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive

Eating Better Means Living Better

It’s around 10:00 on a morning in October, and already the African sun is beating down, hinting at another hot and still day. In the shade in a clearing in the village of Chimudomba in eastern Zambia, a group of ten mothers and their babies and toddlers sit on mats. 

Margret Zimba is beginning her lesson with the women. As a warm-up and review of previous lessons, she started by singing a song with the women in their native language. “How many times should a child eat per day?” the song simultaneously asks and teaches. The women clap and dance while singing. It’s an easy way to get a simple but important message across to the mothers.

Zimba lives in the village and received training to be a volunteer nutrition leader from the Mawa program, run by U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services. Mawa operates with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a major way our federal government carries out its response to hunger and poverty overseas. 

If a mother eats well, it's easier to deliver her child ... you find a difference even in the children

Margaret Zimba speaking in the village of Chimudomba in eastern Zambia

Malnutrition is a contributing factor to preventable maternal and infant mortality rates.  Photo: Joe Molieri in Zambia / Bread for the World

Mothers and Children Surviving and Thriving

With the help of leaders like Zimba, women are learning about good nutrition for their children from pregnancy until age 2. They are learning the importance of good nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days.

Giving children enough food and nutrients early in life is a proven way to prevent problems such as stunted growth, learning problems, and poor health, which can affect people for a lifetime. 

Good nutrition is also important for pregnant mothers. Every year, thousands of women in developing countries die during childbirth. “If a mother eats well, it is easier to deliver a child, and they are not going to lose a lot of blood during delivery,” Zimba explains. “You find a difference even in the children when the mother eats well during her pregnancy.”

Mothers in a Zambian village learn how to prepare and feed their children a nutritious porridge. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Keeping People Alive and Healthy

What Mawa teaches is the business of keeping people alive and healthy. It’s critical in places like this village, where most families are subsistence farmers. During the “hunger season” in February and March — before new crops are harvested but after the previous year’s crops have run out — these families sometimes experience severe malnutrtion.

On this day, Zimba is giving the fifth lesson in a series of 12 in the village. Today’s lesson will include a cooking demonstration. She teaches that just as adults in the village usually eat a variety of foods, young children’s rapidly growing bodies need as balanced diet as well, but a baby can’t chew foods like peanuts, which are high in protein. Zimba demonstrates how to grind up peanuts and black-eyed peas to add to the corn-based porridge normally given to children so they can get nutrients from different types of food. Zimba will return with the mothers to the mats later as they feed the new porridge mixture to their children in amounts based on their age.

Through this hands-on learning, mothers and babies are on the road to a better, healthier life.

2.5 million more children are surviving since 2008 in 24 countries thanks to USAID efforts. Graphic by Doug Puller / Bread for the World

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.