Leczaida is eight years old and lives with her grandmother and five brothers in the El Encantado community in Petare, Venezuela. She doesn’t go to school. Many days, she eats only one meal. There are 4 million children like Leczaida in Venezuela who don’t have enough to eat -- and aren’t getting enough basic nutrition to grow healthy and strong.
Food insecurity is as pervasive a problem as hunger. A family is considered food-insecure if they frequently reduce the size of meals, or go without nutritious, balanced meals, because they can’t afford it.
Almost 20 years of economic strife has made food insecurity the norm in Venezuela.
An overwhelming 90% of families in struggling communities have a poor diet. More than half (62%) are forced to forage for food on the streets. And some 41% don’t eat anything all day. Children under 5 are suffering the most. That’s according to research by the Caritas Foundation in Venezuela.
That’s not acceptable. Dividendo Voluntario para la Comunidad (United Way Venezuela), our corporate partners and other allies joined forces last spring to create two nutrition programs: "A Plate for Life" and “A Glass for Life” to tackle this problem.
Last year, the programs helped more than 7,000 children in 30 schools get almost 75% of their daily nutritional needs (with breakfast, snack and a protein drink).
When kids are hungry, they can’t learn. It’s no surprise that language development for students in these nutrition programs improved by 80% last year. And almost twice as many kids came to school, with attendance going from 40% to 80%.
At the same time, the incidence of viral diseases decreased by 38% and more than 400 parents or caregivers got trained in healthy habits and innovative ways to achieve daily nutritional needs with available resources.
But we need to do more. This year, United Way and our partners plan to provide healthy meals for an additional 3,000 children through the two programs. That requires food; training for teachers, cooks and caregivers; and evaluation and monitoring.
We believe every child in Venezuela should grow up healthy and strong. Join United Way and our partners in this fight for healthy children.