Improving education, feeding kids
04/08/2014 9:24 AM
04/08/2014 9:54 AM
Rebecca B. Wofford, of Selwyn, co-founded The Lunch Project in 2011. The amazing organization improves education by helping feed Tanzanian school children lunch every day while providing American children the chance to learn about cultural differences, how to solve issues using local resources, plus the chance to raise money for the children!
Q. What inspired you to begin The Lunch Project?
A. In March 2011, I visited Tanzania as a law professor. We are studying the Millennium Development Goals and specifically the goal of developing countries of providing primary school education for all children.
Tanzania has 97% of its children enrolled in public primary school. I learned while there that they needed help meeting the educational outcomes of attendance and passing the standard 7 exam for entrance into secondary school.
The primary need that would help with these goals was a lunch program. Visiting with the community surrounding Lemanyata gave me an incredible sense of purpose and hope because the families there were doing everything they could to try and help their children become educated. I share their belief that education is the key to lifting communities out of poverty. The parents and teachers want their children to have choices the same as what we want for our children and we shared a common bond immediately as a result.
Q. How does the project work?
A. We developed a sustainable lunch program by leveraging all of the resources in the local community. Our Tanzanian coordinator purchases ingredients locally grown direct from the farmers. Mamas cook the food over an open fire. Children bring cups, firewood and water from a local well.
Kids attend school when lunch is served because they know they will get food and are better equipped to learn. Attendance is now at 90% or above every day lunch is served and the standard 7 test passage rate has risen to 86% with many more students taking it. The kids create a sign to thank lunch sponsors for their help which we post on Facebook.
$85 pays for the supplies for 900 meals in Tanzania, so for 9 cents you can feed a child who is attending school and trying to create a better world for him or herself. Our lunch programs are in schools with an equal number of boys and girls who are learning many of the same subjects our children are learning here.
Q. What made you decide to help Tanzanian children?
A. Tanzania is a peaceful country and they have adopted the Millennium Development Goals. The families we met are trying to help their children become educated.
Q. Who provides the meals and education?
A. Mamas cook the meals for their children and teachers are provided by the government to the schools. We help supply the local ingredients and we educate children here about global philanthropy and problem solving.
Q. What types of meals are the children served for so little money?
A. Corn porridge. It is a culturally-sensitive meal and the ingredients are grown locally. Once a year, we provide red beans and rice but were told by the head teacher that red beans and rice is "Christmas dinner" and we should only do this as a celebration meal. Our program is a Tanzanian program (and not a western model) so we try to simulate what parents could do at home if they can afford to do even that. The Tanzanian mamas and the community view the lunch program as their lunch program which is why it is sustainable. We simply help where we can.
Q. How is that possible when lunches in the US cost an average of $3-5?
A. Because the program is locally sourced -- from the ingredients to the work being accomplished on a daily basis -- the program costs are kept very low. The dollar is very strong in Tanzania and a Tanzanian model is based on "needs" rather than "wants." Our set up requirements included pots and pans and a tarp in case it rains. Tanzanian cook over an open fire and rely exclusively on locally grown ingredients. Also, as a result, there is no waste created. The food that is prepared is served that day and there are no paper products or food thrown away.
Q. Can anyone get involved? How?
Yes. Anyone can create a project to raise $85 and sponsor lunch with a donation through our website at www.thelunchproject.org.
We especially encourage kids to help us give other kids the fuel to learn because the idea of needing lunch at school resonates with every child and they want to help. We praise Kids for TLP for their efforts to raise awareness or funds on our Facebook page because we believe the "fuel" for kids is "food in school" in Tanzania but for other kids it is "service to others."
For Charlotte-area schools interested exposing students in elementary school to global philanthropy and problem solving, we offer an Education Program. For Charlotte-area families with young children, we also offer a hands-on service-learning workshop and program during the summer called "Summer of Service" so families can get involved in service together. For more information on either program or how you can help, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What types of things are taught to the US children about awareness?
A. Our Education Program focuses on cultural differences and similarities and how to solve problems using local resources. A Kid for TLP learns the power of micro-saving and giving. It is very empowering for kids to realize they can help meet a global need and that with simple, fun ideas they can make a real difference in the world.
Q. What are some of the things the children have done to raise money?
A. Some kids simply collect loose change in a bowl with their families and watch it grow into enough money to feed an entire school of 900 kids. Other kids come up with creative projects to raise awareness or funds. These have included basketball tournaments, dog-walking services, neighborhood family movie night, baked goods and lemonade stands or chores for pennies. We had one child find $14 by cleaning up local parks. We have had several schools adopt The Lunch Project as the beneficiary of their service project or "penny wars" campaign during which classes compete to raise change to change the world.
Q. Are there any upcoming opportunities for our readers to help out?
A. Kids for TLP is service anytime and anywhere. Just connect with us through our website. If you need more, check out our Summer of Service program which will begin in early June and we encourage families who want to learn how to engage in global service with their children to join us. Just email us and we will help you talk about global philanthropy with your children. They will be empowered and they will have fun, too.
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