As part of its ongoing conversations series of panel discussions, hosted a talk on Tuesday night called “The Frontlines of the Battle Against Malnutrition.” The conversation covered topics of malnutrition and the causes of extreme hunger in the developing world. In a first for the series, a high school student, Hannah Hightower, was a member of the panel. She joined Dr. Mark Manary, a physician and activist, in the discussion.
Hightower is a junior at Visitation Academy. As a member of the Junior Board for the Plant Center’s World Food Day Commemoration, she ignited her passion for facing world hunger and helped to package meal boxes that were sent to Tanzania. She later raised her own funds to travel on a mission trip to Tanga, Tanzania, where the food boxes were sent. She spent three weeks in the rural town and saw firsthand the day-to-day subsistence lifestyles of its residents.
Dr. Manary, the director of the Global Harvest Alliance and a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, said that more than half the number of child deaths in the world are caused by hunger and malnutrition. He said that chronic poverty is the main reason that children are not getting enough to eat.
Hightower met children in Tanzania who had to resort to thievery, prostitution, and labor in mines, often foregoing school in order to feed themselves and their families. She also volunteered at a hospital where she was surprised by the lack of awareness among residents about how to prevent the spread of disease. Her experience made her want to “go out and learn more and do more,” she said.
Solving world hunger “is going to need fifty or a hundred solutions,” Dr. Manary said. Dr. Manary has developed a mixture of peanut butter and other nutrient-rich ingredients that can be used to combat malnutrition. He has seen the project have great success in Malawi, where he spends much of his time.
The panel also discussed the race to keep up food production levels with rapid population growth. The Danforth Center, whose “mission includes helping the hungry,” as moderator Jim Davis said, has been working to make cassava, a staple crop in Africa, Asia, and South America, more nutritious. The center also recently received a $4 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to develop healthier sorghum, a cereal grown widely in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Danforth Center will again commemorate World Food Day on October 14 and 15 by enlisting volunteers to package protein-rich meals to send to Africa. Hightower said that volunteers packed 355,000 meals last year and hope to reach a goal of 500,000 this year. She said that the meals can feed six children or four adults for just $1.50, and this price includes the food, packaging, and shipping. She would set a nickel or quarter aside here and there to donate to the cause. “It was something that was easy to do,” she said of her involvement with World Food Day. She encourages others her age to volunteer as well.
More information about volunteer opportunities at the Danforth Center is available on their website. A broadcast of Tuesday evening’s conversation will be broadcast every Sunday in June at 5 p.m. on HEC TV.