Springfield, Ohio - In an effort to change the lives of thousands of orphans suffering from malnutrition and stunting, Wittenberg University is reaching out to area high school students as part of the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative.
Developed as a class project by several students and Scott Rosenberg, professor of history and director of Wittenberg's Peace Corps Preparation Program, the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative will partner with Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati area schools and youth groups to host meal packing events.
The southern African Kingdom of Lesotho, a small landlocked country that suffered from the harsh realities of Apartheid for more than 40 years, is one of the 30 poorest countries in the world. The country has an HIV prevalence rate of 23.9 percent and the highest per capita death rate from HIV of any country globally.
Wittenberg students want to change these statistics.
"A group of students and I developed the project after we learned about the problem of malnutrition and stunting in Lesotho," Rosenberg said. "We started the initial research two years ago. Now the initiative is part of a class/project, and many of the students are Peace Corps Prep majors."
The meals are complete with a nutritional supplement that contains 21 vitamins and minerals and will go to children under the age of 5 in Lesotho suffering from severe/chronic malnutrition and stunting. The meals contain a nutritional supplement that includes 21 vitamins and minerals.
"The packing events have become a unique feature of the prep major, providing students an opportunity to engage in community service, community outreach and gain experience working with an NGO (non-government organization) - all valuable skills for future volunteers," Rosenberg added.
Currently there are two dates. The next one is scheduled to take place with a Kettering youth group from David's United Church of Christ on Saturday, March 25. The other event is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati. Other dates may be added later.
"There are about 20 core students working on this; however, we hope to engage more," Rosenberg said. "We will be partnering with six high schools and two church youth groups, so about 600 high school students."
Each school and youth group will raise half the funds and provide volunteers to help pack the meals. Wittenberg students will be present at each event working side by side with the volunteers.
"The goal is to feed 1,500 under the age of 5 suffering from severe/chronic malnutrition and stunting," Rosenberg said. "We focused on under 5 because that is when 95 percent of [a child's] cognitive development happens. We have already packed 100,000 meals this school year and should have more than 200,000 packed by early May. Our goal is to pack 350,000 more before the end of May. In total, these meals will feed 1,500 children for next five years."
Rosenberg has secured partnerships with such non-profit organizations as the World Food Program (WFP), Touching Tiny Lives and Pack Away Hunger, a non-profit organization based in Indianapolis that assists in obtaining the supplement and preparing it for distribution.
Last school year, Wittenberg University teamed up with area schools to pack 86,000 meals. Rosenberg explained that the intent is to host eight-to-10 events a year, in order to produce the 350,000 meals that are necessary to feed 1,500 children for a year. Each host of a packing event will raise half the necessary funds to purchase the supplement. It takes $115,000 to purchase the necessary amount of supplement to feed 1,500 orphans facing severe malnutrition for one year.