LONDON — Since 2003, the International Rugby Board and the World Food Programme of the United Nations have teamed up with their Tackle Hunger initiative in order to provide school meals to children in the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the world. Next year, in 2015, the Rugby World Cup will be held in England, through which the WFP and IRB hope to scale up their Tackle Hunger program.
Since 2003, the Tackle Hunger program has been successful in raising awareness through various international rugby events and has been able to raise funds so that the WFP can continue to provide school meals to children in developing countries. For the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the two organizations have launched the Million Meals Challenge.
Through this challenge, the initiative hopes to raise enough money to distribute one million meals to children around the world. Currently, money is being raised through the English Rugby Community ticket sales, which has resulted in $21,000 for the challenge. Global ticket sales were opened on September 12 through which the initiative hopes to raise awareness and mobilize the global rugby community behind this issue.
The WFP has worked with the Rugby World Cup in order to raise money for its school meals program, including in the 2003 World Cup in Australia, the 2007 and 2011 World Cups in France and New Zealand, respectively, as well as through the Rugby World Cup Sevens, Women’s Rugby World Cup and the IRB Junior World Championship.
The partnership between the WFP and IRB has proven successful, such as in 2004, when the initiative hosted an exhibition match in London showcasing players from around the world in order to raise money for the WFP’s efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami.
WFP operates school meal programs in 63 different countries, helping 19.8 million children access the nutrition they need to stay school and remain focused on their education rather than their hunger. Encouragingly, 38 countries that utilized WFP’s school meal programs have also been able to take over the programs from the WFP and now operate and feed children in schools with the need for assistance from the WFP.
According to the WFP, school meal program are an essential part providing good nutrition and fostering health child development in the poorest regions of the world which plays a vital role in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
When school meals are provided parents are more likely to consistently send their children to school and WFP works to make sure that girls especially are receiving meals in school, in order to maintain their attendance rates in areas where social practices often hinder girls’ ability to attend school.
School meals in conjunction with other nutritional assistance also help provide children with the nutrients they need to focus on schoolwork and which will help them grow and develop into healthy adults. Proper nutrition increases cognitive functions while malnutrition can hinder it; thus, school meals are an essential part of maintaining children’s interest in school and helping them succeed.
WFP also operates “home-grown” school feeding programs which use food grown by local farmers which not only provides children with the meals they need, but also helps to stimulate local economies.
According to the WFP and IRB it takes only $0.25 to provide one meal to a child that they either eat at school or are given by the organization to take home. It takes only $50 to provide a child with meals for the entire year.
Throughout the entire year leading up to the Rugby World Cup and throughout the event, the WFP and IRB will run awareness campaigns and ads to educate and mobilize their fans to take action. The initiative hopes to emphasize the “powerful connection between good nutrition and sporting excellence [and]ensuring that young children get the food they need to reach their full physical and intellectual potential.” By the end of the six week sporting event, the IRB and WFP hope to have achieved their goal of being able to provide one million meals to children around the world.
– Erin Sullivan
Sources: IRB, UN, Rugby World Cup, World Food Programme, World Food Programme 2, World Food Programme 3, World Food Programme 4, World Food Programme 5