Back in December, well before COVID-19 had taken a firm hold on the world, our numbers showed that more than 820 million people suffered from hunger.

And now, according to the United Nations, that number is set to double because of the pandemic.

The pandemic is, primarily, a global health issue. So why is it a threat to food security?

The coronavirus has brought life to a grinding halt, not in just one city or region, but around the world. Closures have affected borders and markets, leading to food shortages in some areas – and, in turn, a spike in prices.

Combine these impacts with the number of people temporarily or permanently out of work (i.e., without income), and you have a perfect storm – one that’s set to potentially wreak even more devastation than the disease itself.

We’re beginning to see some of the impact. For example, in the 15 countries that our Charity Alliance partner Rise Against Hunger works, shelter-in-place policies have resulted in 236,138 children unable to access nutritious meals through their schools’ feeding programs.

These numbers are only set to worsen, and even when life returns to some sense of normalcy, the pandemic will continue to have a ripple effect in communities around the world. It may be years before we’re back to pre-pandemic levels for many humanitarian causes – hunger included. That’s exactly why we must prepare now.

Thankfully, charities are leading the way. Rise Against Hunger has a plan in place to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

Three steps to food security
Since the start of the pandemic, Rise Against Hunger has continued to work in six of the 10 most food-insecure places in the world. Their three-step COVID-19 Relief & Resilience Plan is a large part of that work, and aims to support those people who are in need right now.

Intervention 1: Sustain nourishing lives
Goal: Raise $280,000 for 579,876 beneficiaries
Status: Funded

When immediate help was needed, Rise Against Hunger looked to the resources they already had in place – their meal inventory and stores of rice. Working together with their partners around the world, they were able to get this food to families and communities in need and help provide short-term relief, quickly.

Intervention 2: Provide short-term grants for local food procurement
Goal: Raise $1,000,000 for 500,000 beneficiaries
Status: In progress

Support the economy and you help bolster an individual’s ability to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. Rise Against Hunger is providing short-term grants to their in-country partners. With this money, they’re able to provide food locally and inject much-needed cash into economies that are hurting from the pandemic.

Intervention 3: Empower communities through sustainable agriculture
Goal: Raise $232,313 for 28,378 beneficiaries
Status: In progress

With this third step, we move into more long-term goals: agricultural sustainability and community empowerment. In Malawi, Mali, Senegal and Zimbabwe, Rise Against Hunger is empowering farmers by educating them on soil fertility, plant spacing, buyer networking and other valuable skills and strategies. With this knowledge, farmers will build their capacity and increase food production. Through this training, they will be able to provide themselves with food, limit their own potential expenses and exposure to COVID-19, decrease dependency on markets and help provide food to their communities.

This three-step strategy reflects that food security and local economies are inextricably linked and aims to support both of these areas in order to protect against future barriers and potential collapse.
It’s an innovative process on paper (or computer screen), but what does it look like in action? Let’s take a look at how this plan is working around the world.
Two schoolgirls in Vietnam eat a Rise Against Hunger meal.

From South Sudan to Senegal: Rise Against Hunger’s worldwide reach
Rise Against Hunger primarily targets countries that were already struggling before the pandemic. Faced with internal displacement, conflict, weaker health systems and other challenges, food security was an issue in these areas long before COVID-19 made things worse. Here are a few examples and how Rise Against Hunger is helping.

Yemen and Afghanistan. Yemen’s Taiz Governorate struggles with high levels of food insecurity and internal displacement, while Afghanistan is facing a lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19, making it more difficult for them to access food. Together with their partner Muslim Aid USA, Rise Against Hunger provided emergency food assistance to 3,960 beneficiaries in Yemen and 1,000 households in Afghanistan.

South Sudan. Years of civil war have led to a fragile country and serious food insecurity. Because of this, they are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic. Taking a slightly different approach to their unique situation, Rise Against Hunger is supporting a therapeutic feeding program to treat severe acute malnutrition associated with COVID-19. They are also working to provide food for several different orphanages.

Senegal. Each region throughout the country is locked down, isolated from the rest and halting the food supply chain between cities. This threatens to throw the area into a hunger crisis. Rise Against Hunger and their partner Development in Gardening implemented an agricultural project through which participants are utilizing vegetables from their community and home gardens to supply the town of Ziguinchor with food.

The return of the Rise Against Hunger Experience
Rise Against Hunger has done well reworking their programming to meet safety guidelines for employees, volunteers and beneficiaries. Because of that, a major piece of their winning formula has been missing these last few months – meal packing events or the Rise Against Hunger Experience.

The pandemic has obviously made it difficult to hold these unique volunteer events. However, we have good news! Rise Against Hunger is officially looking into bringing them back, along with some new precautions to ensure the safety of all involved.

“The [Centers for Disease Control (CDC)], the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have stated that the disease is unlikely to be transmitted via food,” Rise Against Hunger says on their website, “and the CDC says the potential for the virus to spread via food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures, like our boxes or meal bags, is ‘very low.’”

Rise Against Hunger has implemented a new layout to follow during their events and instated the following guidelines:

  • Events are set up to accommodate volunteers based on CDC social distancing guidelines, as well as state and local restrictions on event capacity and venue size.
  • Entryways and equipment will be sanitized for every event and shift.
  • Volunteers are required to wear a CDC-compliant mask in addition to the standard gloves.
  • Members of vulnerable populations and those who have had any cold or flu-like symptoms in the last 48 hours are asked to wait and plan to attend a future experience instead.

Reforging workplace connections
The majority of workplaces have been virtual for months now, and many might remain that way for even longer. Some have adapted well to this change, and others not as much. Either way, employees may be feeling isolated, and there’s a real risk of the connection between coworkers eroding.

As offices look to reopen, the Rise Against Experience may be the icebreaker you need. This is an opportunity to get small portions of your team together – safely – and rekindle comradery as you work toward a common goal that everyone can agree on – taking a hands-on approach to helping those affected by COVID-19.

If the Rise Against Experience isn’t a fit for you, we still have our Coronavirus Outbreak Fund available for anyone who has the ability and would like to support front-line efforts to curb the pandemic.

The danger of new or worsening hunger crises around the world is very real, but with their innovative solutions, Rise Against Hunger continues to bring hope for a better future for all. By participating in the Rise Against Hunger Experience or supporting their work in other ways, you help ensure that we reach the world’s most vulnerable people with life-saving assistance. Need ideas on how to make Rise Against Hunger part of your workplace giving? We can help – reach out to us today!