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The First 1,000 Days and Beyond



Did you know your gifts to Food for the Hungry (FH) literally help save lives? 

Health and Nutrition is one of the four pillars of FH Canada’s work with communities stuck in poverty. Why? Because malnutrition and sickness, especially waterborne diseases, threaten children’s lives, steal their education, and damage their futures. In fact, 45 per cent of all child deaths globally are linked to malnutrition! When you choose to support communities through FH Canada, your gifts support work in this critical area of need, helping to save the lives of children.

Cyclical bouts of illness also hold parents back from accomplishing the things they want to and prevent them from succeeding at work, parenting, and planning for the future. Savings are consumed by repeated trips to the clinic and buying medicine for the family. 

Good health and nutrition, especially for pregnant mothers and young children, is foundational to a community’s ability to overcome poverty and thrive into the future. Your gifts help make that possible!


Why do we focus on the first 1,000 days?

The first 1,000 days of a person’s life—from conception to age two—is critical to our survival as children and success as adults. In FH partner communities, children under the age of five are vulnerable to malnutrition. They don’t have the strength yet to pull through many of the sicknesses that threaten their communities. 

The way we measure whether children in a community are thriving or in need of support, is by monitoring stunting among children under five years of age. Stunting is “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” Children are defined as stunted if they are too short for their age.

Below are just some of the costs of stunting in early childhood:


https://www.concernusa.org/story/what-is-stunting/


How do we stop stunting? It’s about more than food.

We focus on social and behaviour change as the foundational and sustainable means of improving the health and nutrition of mothers and children. It’s all very well to tell a mother what foods she should feed her child and when; it’s entirely another thing to shift the culture so that the mother is given both permission and power to ensure she and her child thrive. 


How they get it done

If you’ve read many FH stories or impact reports, you’ll have heard us talk about “Cascade groups.” It’s how we get life-savings messages into homes, equip mothers to be leaders, and create sustainable health education in communities. Here’s a snapshot for how it works:


Time and again, we’ve seen how Cascade health groups improve maternal and child health and nutrition practices, improve household hygiene routines, and increase demand for and use of quality health care services (including safer births in clinics). Learn how Rong Rath’s life changed, thanks to a Cascade group. 

“The reason that I got involved with FH Cambodia is that I saw the impact of Mrs. Troeb Oeun who is a (Cascade) health volunteer in the village…So, I wanted to be a volunteer like her, to get new lessons about health from FH staff. I want to share what I get…with my family and other neighbours in the village.” - Rong Rath


Beyond day 1,000…

FH has many community health initiatives on the go that address family needs beyond their toddlers’ first years. Here are just a few we’re leaning into this year:

  • Supporting mothers through maternal depression with support groups, and strengthening mental health for all community members.



“We are excited for the future of our children. I like what I see in our community, people helping one another. Our community is starting to look different—in our children’s education, in our health practices, in agriculture, and many more. I enjoy seeing us all together creating these positive changes.” - Det Net

  • Strengthening health systems for communities so families can access nurses, doctors, medicine, and childbirth support. Read midwife Tapisa’s testimony to how FH has improved the system she works in so she can better serve the women in surrounding communities.

“The health centre used to only carry out four health outreaches in the community a month. Now, thanks to FH, they conduct 12 health outreaches a month! This has enabled the health centre staff to reach more children and mothers nearer to their communities.” - Tapisa

  • Increasing gender equality so both men and women can be healthier and happier. Equipping and encouraging men to lean into their responsibilities, while educating the broader social structure on the rights and benefits of women having access to resources, markets, and leadership. Find out how a group of women in Guatemala are excelling in business and creating thriving in their communities.

These teen girls in Guatemala don't have to skip school anymore just because it's that time of the month.


“After getting training on menstrual hygiene, I started using the girls’ hygiene kit. Now I come to school at all times without any shame. Also, I now teach other girls how to make their own kits and help them learn to use it.” - Yekite


Across all partnered communities, our vision for health stays strong.

Our vision of a healthy community is one where all children and their families are in a nurturing, loving, and thriving environment that is free from abuse and violence. 

You’ll notice we didn’t say a community where “everyone has a garden” or “everyone has access to clean water” or “everyone has medical coverage.” That’s because health needs and solutions change depending on the country, culture, and context. But our vision for flourishing stays strong.

Our purpose in pursuing health for families is to seek to restore hope, dignity, and a sense of purpose among children and their families by addressing root causes of poor emotional, mental, and physical health. While it’s true that nearly half of all child deaths in the world are linked to malnutrition, it’s not true that simply planting vegetable gardens in every backyard is the solution. The causes of malnutrition can be rooted in misguided beliefs about children’s and mothers’ needs, an emotional inability in parents to care for their children, or a mental struggle to believe they can change their situation—or any number of reasons! We are whole people, so our solutions to poverty will naturally be holistic. 

Our goal in supporting families toward health—our prayer and dream and desired outcome, the thing we daily strive for—is the sustained well-being of children within healthy and thriving communities in a spirit of God’s shalom. God’s peace and wholeness is what we long to see in every family whose lives we’re privileged enough to touch.

This is the vision, purpose, and goal you get behind every time you boldly choose to support families through Food for the Hungry. 

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Food for the Hungry: The First 1,000 Days and Beyond
The First 1,000 Days and Beyond
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