Thanksgiving, And How Not To Shop For Groceries

Pushing my shopping cart hurriedly through the supermarket aisles, I paused briefly to glance at my watch.

Four-thirty. Great, I still had time to get what I needed and make my doctor’s appointment.

Weaving past carts filled with food, expertly avoiding strollers,

Little April has been sick for 6 months, her body wasting away from a lack of good food.
Little April has been sick for 6 months, her body wasting away from a lack of good food.

and randomly placed boxes, I barely slowed down to grab each item off the shelf and toss it in my cart. I was on a roll; a can of peanuts, lightly salted of course … a bag of washed potatoes … risotto rice … a bunch of fresh celery … a dozen free-range eggs … and the list went on.

Within ten minutes I’d finished my shopping, proudly looking at the pile of groceries that now spilled over the side of my cart. I’d checked off every item on my list, and managed to find a checkout aisle with less than four people waiting. I am the greatest shopper in the world.

Out of breath, I now stood impatiently in the checkout line, waiting to now unload everything that I’d just put in. Well, at least they would repack it for me. It was around the time I was contemplating whether I wanted the 2 for 1 candy bar offer that I thought of April. Not the month, but a little one-year-old girl I’d been reading about earlier that afternoon.

Before my frantic trip to the grocery store, I’d spent a few hours with little April. She lives with her mom in a small village in Myanmar. I wasn’t physically sitting with her, but reading her story it sure felt like it. I read about how this precious one had been sick for over six months. That’s half her life.

Her mother shared April’s story with a colleague of mine, and told of how hungry they both were. She earned enough to buy the very basics; rice, and a few vegetables every now and then. But they were never fresh, and something always had to be sacrificed in order to afford them. It was clearly April’s health.

I unpacked my cart, haphazardly placing each item on the belt as the checker scanned, and dropped them in a paper bag. My thoughts were not on whether my eggs were cracked, but firmly focused on April, and the dire situation she was in.

April and her mom had been screened for malnutrition, and the results were not good. In villages across Myanmar (and elsewhere in Asia and Africa), World Concern staff visit children like April and test them for malnutrition and other illnesses. It’s a free service, and the results (while often shocking) can save a child’s life.

I read about how April’s mom carried her to the mobile clinic, sitting quietly on a chair and waiting for the volunteer to call them. April did nothing but cry; not a wail or an impatient tear, but a whimper, as if there was simply nothing left to cry about. Her mom did everything she could to comfort April—making faces, singing, and bouncing her on her knee—nothing worked. So she sat there, totally defeated, and waited for her daughter’s name to be called.

When it was April’s turn to be seen, the nurse first weighed April in a sling, kind of like a hammock, recording her weight before moving onto the next, and most

Baby April is gently weighed before a final test showed how quickly help was needed.
Baby April is gently weighed before a final test showed how quickly help was needed.

important test. The nurse delicately threaded a paper tape around April’s upper arm. This measures the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and diagnoses the level of malnourishment according to a color scale—green is considered healthy, yellow shows that the child is malnourished, and red indicates severe and acute malnutrition.

April’s arm was in the red. And by a long way.

The cheerful grocery checker had almost finished packing my groceries, but at this stage all I could think about was April, and all I could hear was the beep … beep … beep … beep … of my food being scanned. Then I saw my total.

I quickly moved my eyes to my two bags of groceries. How is that $181.91?

Little April was starving, and here I am buying $181.91 worth of groceries. Her tiny immune system simply didn’t have the energy to keep on fighting, and so it was slowly giving up. She needed nutritious food, and quickly.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what World Concern is doing for hungry children in Myanmar and other communities like April’s. So after the clinic visit April’s mom was given an emergency food kit and told lovingly to come back when the basket was empty to receive more.

An emergency food kit gives a hungry child locally-sourced food, for just $22.
An emergency food kit gives a hungry child locally-sourced food, for just $22.

The basket they carried home that day was filled with locally-sourced, highly nutritious, fresh food—a bag of potatoes … nuts and beans … rice … fresh vegetables … free-range eggs—pretty much everything that I’d just bought.

And the cost of the emergency food kit? Only $22. I could feed 8 hungry children with what I just bought.

Collecting my receipt and trudging out to the car, I cringed at the abundance that was around me. Food was readily available. I had money to buy it. And I was about to visit my family doctor.

Later that evening I spoke with my son about April, and how we could give a hungry child basically everything I’d bought at the supermarket, for just $22.
My son is seven, and his response to me was exactly what ours should be:

“How many hungry kids will you feed?”

Grow your own sack garden

Sack gardenOur staff in Chad have been teaching people living in refugee camps there how to grow sack gardens. It’s a great way to improve a family’s diet by adding fresh vegetables with less water needed than a typical garden.

Since spring is a time many people are thinking about gardening, we thought we’d share these instructions for growing your own sack garden! If you do, please share it with us! We’ll be sure to share how things are growing in Chad too.

Our agronomists first learned about sack gardens from Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kenya, and we learned more about various container and urban gardening methods at ECHO Global Farm. These instructions have been pulled from Gardens From Health.

 

Materials needed:

  • A burlap or plastic sack (we use discarded food aid sacks, which make perfect sack gardens, especially for symbolic reasons)
  • Soil mixed with organic compost
  • Rocks for irrigation
  • A cylindrical bucket or tin, open on both ends (we use seed tins or vegetable oil tins, but a coffee can would work well too)

 

Instructions:

1.    Fill the bottom of the sack with soil mixed with organic compost. Fill the tin with rocks. This will serve as an irrigation channel.

 

2.    Surround the tin with more soil, and slowly lift it up, so that the rocks remain.

 

3.    Fill the tin with more rocks, and surround it again with soil. Repeat this until the sack is filled with a tower of rocks surrounded by soil.

 

4.    Poke holes into the side of the sack an even distance apart.

 

5.    Transplant seedlings into the sides of the sack.

 

6.    You can try direct seeding beets, carrots or other vegetables or herbs in the top of the sack.

 

7.    Enjoy your harvest!

 

For more information on how World Concern is improving nutrition in impoverished countries, please visit www.worldconcern.org/poverty.