WORLD FOOD DAY: Salesian Missions highlights feeding programs and organic farming initiatives
Salesian programs are working on the front lines helping to feed those most in need.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 16, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins the international community and organizations around the globe in honoring World Food Day. Celebrated each year on Oct. 16, the day was established to bring attention to the plight of the world’s hungry and undernourished while providing an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the complex solutions for ending hunger.
This year’s theme, “Our Actions are our Future,” focuses on the way food is consumed and its effect on health and the planet. More than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. Of that number, 821 million people—one in nine—still go to bed on an empty stomach each night, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Further, agri-food systems employ 1 billion people worldwide, more than any other economic sector. FAO noted, “The way we produce, consume and, sadly, waste food exacts a heavy toll on our planet, putting unnecessary pressure on natural resources, the environment and climate. Food production too often degrades or destroys natural habitats and contributes to species extinction.”
Salesian Missions operates feeding programs in its schools and centers made possible by partnerships with organizations like Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable. Salesian Missions identifies needs and coordinates delivery of 40-foot shipping containers full of meals and supplemented with additional supplies when available.
“Salesian Missions programs are dedicated to providing feeding programs to ensure that youth have a nutritious and healthy diet,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “During the pandemic, Salesian missionaries, staff and volunteers have worked in countries around the globe to ensure that children out of school, families who have lost income, migrant workers and those living in extreme poverty often on the fringes of society have enough to eat. From providing hot meals to food kits, Salesian programs are working on the front lines helping to feed those most in need.”
This World Food Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight feeding programs and organic farming initiatives in schools and centers around the globe.
Salesian missionaries in India are continuing to help those impacted by the deadly second wave of COVID-19. Don Bosco Nava Nirman, in Maniguda in the state of Odisha, provided free food kits to migrant workers, those living in slums, rag pickers, beggars, street vendors and tribal families. Salesians wanted to ensure that those living on the fringes of society and facing the direst circumstances still had access to adequate nutrition.
In addition, Don Bosco Nava Nirman, with the support of Bosco Seva Kendra, the planning and development office, distributed essential food supplies, including rice, oil, fruit, vegetables and biscuits, as well as masks to more than 300 families. Father Arul Das, director of Don Bosco Nava Nirman, led the program with the collaboration of the members of the community, who also visited the Bosco Study Centers in tribal villages and distributed fruit to children.
In Mumbai, Don Bosco Nerul is also focused on ensuring local communities have access to proper nutrition. It has set up the Don Bosco Cares Fridge where donors can leave food for other members of the community. Nearly 70 percent of the donations are made by local Salesian school teachers. The rest of the donations are from those passing by who have the ability to donate.
Bosco Global recently launched the “Cultivating the skills of young people. Formation in agroecology in Tambacounda (Senegal)” project with the support of the Menorcan Fund for International Cooperation. The initiative is supporting the education and training for 10 students attending Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Tambacounda and their families, which includes about 50 people total.
Youth are learning about organic farming techniques, soil enrichment and water optimization. The students have been assigned rural plots, and some of them have already started working. The project will help curb desertification and enrich the soil that is now depleted due to a lack of nutrients and water, as well as climate change, which is shortening the rainy season.
Thanks to this project, some of the students are already thinking about setting up a business to market their crops. At the end of the agroecological training, students will also be offered a course on how to obtain microcredit.
The Salesian Family in Thailand recently launched the “We are in the Same Boat” campaign to help bring relief to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative provided 500 food bags for poor residents living in Khao Yoi, Phetchaburi Province and in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi Province. Another 100 food bags were given to refugees from Myanmar staying along the border of the Kanchanaburi Province. The event was held at the grounds of the Salesian Society in Bangkok.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand is still impacting between 2,300-3,000 people who are testing positive each day. Many are working in large factories and in close contact with each other. The virus has also spread into adjacent villages. The government has made an effort to vaccinate people, but the numbers are still low.
There are also refugees from Myanmar who are fleeing to Thailand for safety but find once they arrive, they face hardships as they settle in. These families have few resources, and they are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Salesian missionaries living and working at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda have been able to provide food aid to 800 people at the camp thanks to funding from Salesian Missions.
Even before COVID-19, living conditions in Palabek were not easy. Food distribution was scarce and there were difficulties in accessing drinking water. With the arrival of the pandemic, everything has become even more complicated. The amount of food delivered to refugees once a month has been reduced by 30 percent, classes and activities were suspended, and episodes of violence, alcoholism, and teenage pregnancies began. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warns that unless urgent action is taken to address the situation, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia are expected to rise, especially among children.
In addition to providing food directly, Salesian missionaries are working to counter the food shortage through the cultivation of food including cereals, vegetables, and if possible, some cash crops such as sim sim, groundnuts and sunflower. The goals are to promote kitchen gardens of vegetables and fruits, hire land from the local Ugandans, and create agreements to work together with the host community. Salesians have provided several hundred kilos of maize, beans, soya beans, sim sim, groundnuts and many assorted vegetable seeds. They have also provided tons of cassava cuttings.
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