By Robin Stephenson
Oatmeal bubbles on the stove, a hastily poured glass of orange juice drips on the counter, and the smell of cooking eggs fill a Portland, Oregon kitchen. With three children in the mix, breakfast at the Stange house is marked by both chaos and abundance, something for which Michele Stange is grateful.
Working full-time and pursuing a master’s degree leaves very little room in the busy mother’s schedule, but her most important job is making sure her kids get the nutrition they need to thrive. “I am grateful for the fact that I have healthy food in the house at all times,” said Michele. “I know that whatever my children chose to prepare for their breakfast, it will be fuel for a morning filled with learning.”
An ocean away, a mother in Kakamega, a town in western Kenya, shares a common cause with Michele —a desire to see her child well fed and thriving. Like Michele, Violet has a busy schedule; she is a farmer, studies fashion design, and is breastfeeding a six-month old.
Tanuja Rastogi, a senior global nutrition advisor with Bread for the World Institute, met Violet in April while doing research on nutrition programs. On the day she visited, a health worker was giving Violet and her husband, Peter, nutrition advice and a fortified food product for their daughter, Blessing.
Kenya, a success story when it comes to beating malnutrition, reduced its stunting rate by one-third within 10 years. Still, there is work to do. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), roughly 26 percent of Kenya’s children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Programs like the one Tanuja witnessed focus on supporting mothers with nutrition education and resources.
“Support a mother and you support a child,” said Tanuja, something she knows first-hand. She noted that receiving nutrition and breastfeeding support with the birth of her second child was an enormous benefit but something that not every country is has the resources to provide.
Kenya has one of the largest and most diversified economies in East Africa, but it takes more than economic growth to improve nutrition—especially in rural communities. Like many rural farming families, Violet and Peter struggle with access to income, diverse foods, and nutrition knowledge. Health guidance is a key ingredient in Kenya’s progress against malnutrition.
U.S.-led funding and programs are helping to fuel progress against malnutrition—but so much more can be done to scale up those efforts.
A first step to accelerate improved global nutrition is passing the Global Nutrition Resolution. During May, when we celebrate mothers, Bread for the World has launched a petition drive to urge members of Congress to support mothers everywhere with improved access to nutrition.
An ocean and access to abundant resources separate Michele and Violet, but motherhood draws them together. In solidarity, Michele signed the petition because she says that like her, every mom wants what is best for her child. “When you send your children out the door in the morning, you want to know they have everything they need to be safe, healthy, and resilient,” she said. “My heart hurts for moms who do not have nutritious food to start their child’s day.”
Join Michele and other Bread members this Mother’s Day by telling your members of Congress that while progress has been made against malnutrition, they must do more. As a thank you, we encourage you to download a certificate of appreciation for the nutritious start your mother, or the mother figure in your life, gave you. Bread members will deliver the petitions to your members of Congress in June as part of the Advocacy Summit.
Robin Stephenson is the senior manager for digital campaigns at Bread for the World.