Why our Family left Competitive Sport…

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…at least for now.

I am a huge sports fan.  I am the fan that PVRs and watches every single Olympic event.  I have great respect for athletes and admire what they accomplish.

In our own family, we have 3 active sons.  They have tried out several sports (soccer, basketball, track, diving, and more) but all ended up in competitive swimming.  Partially because our oldest absolutely loved it and then I thought it would be easier if they all followed suite.  They all have the great skill of swimming now (a life-skill I might add) and have learned many valuable lessons from the sport and their coaches.

Benefits of sport that I have seen:

  • learning about leadership and teamwork
  • developing coping mechanisms for anxiety before/during competition
  • learning to deal with loss, disappointment and developing resilience
  • developing patience and perseverance
  • improving social skills and different friends
  • building self-esteem and confidence
  • discipline and respecting authority

So where did it go wrong? 

The demands of the sport as they grew older became larger and a much more demanding commitment time-wise and financially for our family.  Our oldest began practice before school, I had to leave work early to get them to the pool, dry land training began and meets spanned entire weekends.  Really between the 3 boys we only had Sundays off but not even if there was a swim meet.  We even carpooled but it didn’t really put a dent in all the driving.  There was really no time for other interests, school sports or socialization with their school friends.

The funny thing was as a mom I was still willing to continue…why?  This took we a while to figure out but I’ve realized several things:

  1. Fear was holding me back from doing the right thing for our family.  Fear of my sons not being heavily involved in an activity, leading to getting into trouble as teenagers: drugs, alcohol, poor friend choices, etc.  But what I was missing that if my kids are so heavily involved in sport, I won’t have time to connect, teach or build relationships with my children which in turn can lead to the above anyway.
  2. Being different. (If families are blessed with the income for their children to participate in sport,) I think as parents we can get so caught up in helping our children finding their sport or “thing” that once they find it we can go overboard in lessons, camps, coaching, etc. that help them excel but it doesn’t teach them good life balance.  It’s so easy to get sucked into the “more is better mentality” and unfortunately this doesn’t leave time for kids to just be kids.
  3. Change is difficult.  At least for me it is.  And I guess this leads me back to fear and fear of the unknown.  It’s easier to stay in the same routine and pattern that’s familiar even if it’s destructive or not fully in line with your values.

I cannot recommend or say what the right decision is for other families but I’d just encourage you to make sure what you and your children are involved in aligns with your core values as a family.  The demands of our sport started affecting my work, my son began being tired at school, I was getting sick more often, we were rarely able to do the family activities we loved (bike, hike, ski, etc.) and it was becoming quite the challenge to find a Sunday church time that would work.  But what was most destructive was that our family meals and time together were suffering.  Research has shown that family meals are so important for connection and the health of our children.  This fact I could not ignore.

Research has shown that simply sitting down at the kitchen table and sharing family meals has a positive impact on children and teenager’s development.  Children and teens that eat regular meals with their family have been shown to have improved food choices, better nutrient intakes, lower eating disorder risk, better social adjustment and improved school performance.

Also, I have witnessed and learned in my dietitian career to be cautious when the only identity your child has is their sport.  In working with young adults and teenagers suffering with eating disorders, I have seen many young elite athletes have one sport become the one and only thing they live for.  Their whole identity seems to be wrapped up in “I’m a hockey player” or “I’m a dancer”.  Great that they have found “their thing” but I see the destructive side when they suddenly cannot play their sport anymore (ie. because of injury, age, etc.).  I see a huge loss in identity and young people feeling lost because they have nothing else to turn to.  All their time and attention has been devoted to that one sport.  I just have to say to encourage your children to diversify and have several interests, hobbies and/or sports.

This leads me to the research that shows that children should diversify… The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) put together an “Early Sport Specialization Consensus Statement” in 2016 because of concerns of this growing trend in children’s sport.  (Single sport specialization is defined as 9 months or more of one sport to the exclusion of others.)

The overall results were: “there is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in the majority of sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multisport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.” (AOSSM, 2016)

From a public health perspective, why isn’t more being done?  According to the AOSSM early sports specialization has actually been identified as damaging for an athlete’s future physical and mental health.    From another excellent read “Fear, greed, broken dreams: How early sports specialization is eroding youth sports”  J.J. Adams says “These days, alas, the fun in youth sports is rapidly fading, the dreams of children replaced by the ambitions of adults.”(Adams, 2018)  I’m hopeful that children’s sport leagues, coaches and parents will all pay attention and learn from this valuable research and information to affect change for the future.  My personal hopes are that there will be more opportunities for children’s recreational sport and early sport specialization will become taboo.

So I’m not sure where the future will lead my sons but for now competitive sport is on hold and I’m really excited about all the new possibilities and opportunities for our family!

 

 

Easy Shrimp, Orzo & Zucchini

An easy one-pot family friendly meal!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • ½ onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 small-medium zucchini sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in half (or quartered if larger)
  • 2 cups orzo (dry)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ~1 lb (~454 g) precooked shrimp, thawed and peeled
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Green onion finely chopped (optional)
  • Grated parmesan or feta cheese as topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Cook until softened.
  2. Stir in orzo and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for ~10 min or until pasta is cooked through.
  3. Stir in precooked shrimp at the very end and heat until warm (do not overcook as shrimp will get rubbery). Add additional toppings if desired.  Enjoy!

Apple Pecan Bacon Salad

Salads are so delicious in the summer!

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Use any assortment of lettuce and/or other greens.  Add chopped up apple, real bacon bits (or leftover bacon cut up) and candied pecans (you can make or buy them). Combine the following for the salad dressing:

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1.5 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/3 cup avocado or olive oil

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): How does it differ from other eating disorders?  

As a Registered Dietitian that specializes in disordered eating, I see a wide variety of clients (both male and female and of varying ages) that struggle with food. While you have likely heard of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, how much do you know about ARFID?

What is ARFID?

ARFID stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (See DSM-5 for diagnostic criteria).  Individuals diagnosed with ARFID have developed a problem with eating or feeding which affects their ability to eat enough to meet their nutritional needs.  Food intake may be restricted based on the food’s taste, texture, smell, colour or past negative experience with the food.

As a result, children or teens may lose weight or not gain weight during growth or may not grow in height as expected. Adults may lose weight and/or not eat enough to maintain basic body functions. ARFID can cause social issues because individuals may have extreme anxiety with eating around other people and/or isolate themselves to avoid social situations that involve food.  Ie. At school or work lunches, holidays with family or gatherings with friends.

Examples of possible ways ARFID may present itself (with no other medical explanation):

  • A child/teen is an extremely picky eater since childhood + not gaining weight or growing.
  • Child/teen/adult had a negative past experience with choking or vomiting followed by a fear of eating solid foods.
  • Child/teen has abdominal pain that prevents them from eating enough + height has dropped or stopped on their growth curve.
  • Client is unnecessarily avoiding a long list of foods that they claim to be triggers for digestive symptoms, are very rigid and fearful of the restricted food/symptoms + losing weight.

What is not ARFID?

People with ARFID don’t typically fear weight gain and don’t have a distorted body image which are characteristics of other eating disorders.  (However, if left untreated ARFID can develop into anorexia or bulimia nervosa.)  Also, if inadequate food intake is better explained by a medical condition or limited access to food then this is not an ARFID diagnosis.

Don’t confuse ARFID with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  For example, an individual with OCD may not eat any raw food for fear of contamination. However, OCD and ARFID can co-occur together.

Remember ARFID is not the same as picky eating.  ARFID and eating disorders are a mental illness.  Ellyn Satter, Family therapist and Registered Dietitian says “Most problems with eating and feeding are not psychiatric disorders. They are problems, and, as such, they can be addressed by education or brief intervention conducted knowledgeably.” Therefore if you are unsure it is important to seek the advice of a health professional with good experience in the area of family feeding (for children), disordered eating and eating disorders.

Is a diagnosis needed before seeking support?

Knowing a diagnosis can be very helpful but it is not necessary nor the solution to recovery.  For example, a diagnosis can help guide which type of psychotherapy to use (ie. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, etc.) using evidence based guidelines for effectiveness.  However, often behaviors and symptoms are “grey” in terms of whether it is an eating disorder, type of eating disorder and/or whether other mental illness is a factor (ie. OCD, depression, ADHD, etc.).  This is why collaborating and referring to other experienced health professionals is crucial.  However, you can still successfully support someone with healthy change with or without an official diagnosis or while they are seeking out other supports and assessments.  Most important is supporting the individual and creating a plan specific to their needs and situation because even two people with the same diagnosis can have very different struggles, fears, behaviors, etc.

Treatment for ARFID:

Because ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis, the most effective treatment is still being studied.  Treatment must address any nutritional deficiencies, inadequate growth, weight loss and psychological concerns.  Some programs use nutrition counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and/or family counseling for children/teens (and many other therapies are being explored).  Also treatment of other underlying conditions is important. Ie. anxiety disorder, OCD, ADHD, and autism are common.  This is why having a medical doctor, Eating Disorder Dietitian, and Psychotherapist (experienced in eating disorders) are all important professionals on a  support team.

Specifically when it comes to nutrition support, here are a few things I have found helpful for my clients with any eating issue including ARFID:

  1. Meet the client where they’re at. Every client is different even if they have the same diagnosis so you need to ask questions, be a good listener and individualize treatment plans with every client.
  2. Explore the home food environment and feeding relationship between the parent/caregiver and child. (Even if the client is an adult it is important to get their childhood food and feeding history.)
  3. Involve and educate the client’s supports (ie. parents, caregivers, spouses or other loved ones) in terms of eating and feeding no matter what age the client is.

Greek Chicken Skewers

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Our family has been making this recipe for years! It’s still one of my favourite recipes served with Greek salad, Tzatziki sauce and warm pita!

Ingredients:

4-5 large chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes

Marinade:

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp liquid honey

1 Tbsp avocado or canola oil

1 Tbsp dry oregano (or 2 Tbsp fresh oregano minced)

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper (freshly ground is better)

Directions:

  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a glass bowl. Add chicken, stir and marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade. (Metal skewers are easiest because they do not burn.) Spray or grease a large piece of tinfoil and lay out on BBQ.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center (turn occasionally).  OR broil on high on greased foil-lined cookie sheet in oven for approximately 4 minutes on each side (when broiling watch carefully because the chicken can burn fast).  Be careful not to overcook or chicken will be dry.

 

 

 

Cilantro Lime Chicken Bowls

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An easy family-friendly recipe that won’t disappoint!  Either dish out bowls or take a “build-your-own” approach and place all the ingredients out for your family to decide!  (FYI: If you are looking for a different homemade salad dressing – try this dressing recipe – it’s my favourite!)

Ingredients for Marinade and Dressing:

1/2 cup                             Lime juice

4 tsp                                  Balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup                             Olive or avocado oil

2 cloves                            Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp                               Honey

1/2 cup                             Cilantro leaves (stems removed, finely chopped)

Ingredients for Bowl:

~4                                      Chicken breasts

1 cup                                 Grape tomatoes, halved

1 (341 mL) can                Corn, kernels (or frozen corn heated)

1 (540 mL) can                Black beans, rinsed

1                                         Avocado, sliced

2 cups                               Uncooked brown rice (cook as per bag directions)

Optional                           Shredded cheddar cheese (as a topping)

 

Directions:

  1. Mix marinade/dressing ingredients by hand or in a blender/food processor. *Use ½ for chicken marinade and save the other ½ for the dressing.
  2. Cut chicken breast into 1” cubes. Place in a glass dish or Ziploc bag with ½ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
  3. Meanwhile cook rice and prepare all your other bowl ingredients.
  4. Sauté chicken in a large pan on the stove over medium high heat. Cook until no longer pink.
  5. Layer rice, chicken and then other ingredients. Drizzle desired dressing on top!

 

Wild Game Nutrition

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I’ll be honest, I actually didn’t even like the taste of meat growing up… let alone experimenting with eating wild game.  As an adult, learning to cook and season meat to my preferences has helped me to now enjoy meat dishes but I do love some meatless meals as well.

After getting married, my husband started hunting and providing wild game meat for our family.  I’ve grown to feel more connected to our food source and really appreciate knowing where our meat is coming from.  Also, we have learned to process the meat and I actually feel better doing this ourselves as we waste very little, we are overly cautious with sanitization, we choose the cuts we prefer and what goes into the ground meat.  We have an extra deep freeze for the meat and I rarely have to buy meat from the store.  We have processed deer, elk and moose meat so far.  Currently, I have to say our family favourite is Elk meat as it is so lean and tender at the same time but also it has a milder flavor than other game so it is so versatile for any dish.

Since I didn’t grow up eating game meat, I have been challenged with the task of learning how to cook it.  (Actually I tried poorly made deer sausage once when I was little and thought it was gross.)  I think it’s important to note that wild game does not have to taste “gamey”.  You just need to know the best way to prepare and cook it depending on the type of game and different cuts.  I have made stew, burgers, tacos, spaghetti sauce, roasts, steaks, kabobs, chili, chorizo, smokies, jerky and pepperoni so far.

Nutritionally wild game meat is a great source of lean protein which is typically lower in total fat, saturated fat and calories than other red meat (See Nutritional Comparison below).  It’s suggested that the nutritional difference is due to game animals eating their natural vegetation and being more active in their wild habitat compared to farm raised animals.

Nutritional Comparison:

Meat

Quantity Calories Protein Fat

Saturated Fat

Deer (venison), roasted

100g

158 kcal 30.2g 3.2g

1.3g

Elk, roasted

100g

146 kcal 30.2g 1.9g

0.7g

Moose, roasted

100g

134 kcal 35.0g 1.3g

0.3g

Beef loin, sirloin, lean roasted

100g

178 kcal 29.3g 5.9g

2.4g

Beef loin, tenderloin, lean roasted

100g

194 kcal 30.9g 6.6g

3.0g

*Data from the Canadian Nutrient File

If you don’t hunt (or know someone that does), many farmers markets, specialty butcher shops and local restaurants carry game meat if you want to give it a try!

When is Mindful Eating an effective strategy for Eating Disorders?

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Mindful Eating is often promoted and supported in the treatment of eating disorders.  It is important to point out though that the majority of research and evidence for mindful eating has been focused on overeating, bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED).  Very few studies have looked at mindful eating and anorexia or other restrictive types of eating disorders.  (Please note: this article discusses “mindful eating” not to be confused with the broader practice of “mindfulness“.  Mindfulness may be taught by experienced eating disorder professionals and used for all types and stages of treatment.)

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful Eating involves an intentional awareness of our food choices and paying attention to how we eat (focusing, limiting distractions, listening and trusting our body’s hunger/fullness cues).  Professionally I have seen the benefit of clients using mindful eating because it fosters a healthy non-judgmental relationship with food that supports flexibility and variety.

When is Mindful Eating not effective?

Many experienced eating disorder health professionals would agree that mindful eating is not appropriate or effective for people with anorexia in the early stages of treatment.  This may also be the case for other restrictive or extreme eating disorder cases.  Health professionals need to assess client appropriateness before utilizing a mindful eating plan.

6S’s to Assess:

  1. Safety: Have physical health indicators been checked? (ie. blood pressure, heart rate, blood work, electrolytes, etc.)  Is there a risk for refeeding syndrome?  Does the person need to be medically monitored in an inpatient program or hospital setting?  Is the individual self-harming in other ways?
  2. Supports:  Is a full support team in place including a therapist (and/or psychiatrist), medical doctor, and registered dietitian.  Is there family or other supports?
  3. Stability: Are mental and emotional health stable?   Is medication needed?  Is weight restoration needed?  Are basic nutritional needs being met?  A meal plan from a Registered Dietitian is often utilized to ensure adequate intake.
  4. Slowed Digestion: Has food been restricted for a prolonged period of time?  If so, digestion can be slowed and fullness reached really quickly with a very small amount of food.  In this situation, feeling “uncomfortably full” may be necessary in the refeeding or weight restoration process.  Hunger and fullness cues are often not relied on or trusted until nutritional needs are being met and sustained.
  5. Stress: Can the person tolerate stress? (and to what degree?) Stress and anxiety surrounding food and mealtimes can often create stomach discomfort which can be confused with physical fullness.  Initially distraction strategies are often used as a part of meal support because the goal of treatment is to just complete meals.  A trained therapist can help clients build resiliency, develop stress tolerance and differentiate between emotional and physical discomfort.
  6. Stage of Change: Does the person even think their eating disorder is a problem? Are they even contemplating change?  If not, mindful eating will not be effective.  Remember many people suffering with eating disorders will initially be forced into treatment or forced to seek support but are still in the precontemplation stage of change.

Most importantly when supporting someone with eating disorder recovery remember that there is never one best approach for everyone.  Eating disorders are very complicated and individualized treatment is absolutely necessary.

If you’re in the Calgary area and you’d like to learn more about nutrition counselling for eating disorder recovery you can book a free consultation here:  https://www.healthstandnutrition.com/request-a-consultation/

Or if you are looking for an eating disorder specialist in your area (in Canada), check out the National Eating Disorder Information Centre’s (NEDIC’s) Service Provider Directory:  http://nedic.ca/providers/search

*Photo credit: Brooke Lark

SKIP The Resolutions

Why commit to unrealistic short-term resolutions when they aren’t going to last?

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Here are some Red Flags that your resolution may not be suitable or effective for benefiting your health.

Your Resolution may not be a great choice if it:   

  1. Makes you feel deprived.

Ie. A fad diet.  It can fail because you really love carbs but the diet says you cannot eat them.  You avoid carbs for a while and then end up bingeing.

Instead: Focus on what you can add in (vs take out).  For example, including or increasing vegetables at lunch and dinner.

  1. Creates more stress in your life.

Ie. Counting calories.  It can fail because for some people it becomes obsessive and time consuming.  The focus on calories can take away from food satisfaction and trusting your body.

Instead: Focus on balancing your meal with protein, grain and vegetable(s) choices.

  1. Creates rigidity.

Ie. Food rules.  “I can only eat gluten-free, organic, dairy-free, clean, and sugar-free”.  It can fail because you are limiting your options so much (and unnecessarily unless there are food allergies, etc.) that you don’t know what to eat.

Instead: Allow yourself flexibility.  Maybe you aim to eat less sugar when you are at home but don’t worry about it when you are invited to your friend’s for supper.

  1. Has no evidence of improving your health.

Ie.  Doing a cleanse or detox.  It can fail because there is no evidence to show it improves health and in some cases can even be harmful.  Also, it’s not changing long term habits or behaviours.

Instead: Avoid harmful behaviours like binge drinking.  Seek out a credible regulated health professional such as a Registered Dietitian for evidence based health advice.

  1. Affects your sleep.

Ie.  Not eating enough in attempt to lose weight.  It can fail because lack of intake can interrupt sleeping patterns where you wake up at unusual hours from hunger.  Lack of sleep can affect hormones that can actually increase appetite.

Instead:  Learn to trust your body that it knows how much it needs to be nourished. Build awareness of your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

  1. Doesn’t fit into a reasonable schedule.

Ie.  Working out 7 days a week.  It fails because realistically you don’t have that kind of time and don’t enjoy the gym.

Instead: Focus on fewer days a week of quality exercise that you enjoy (group class or fun hockey league?) and then do something active with your family on the weekend.

  1. Creates disconnection and/or social isolation.

Ie.  Extreme eating patterns.  It can fail because you have to prepare a totally different supper than the rest of your family or you can’t eat at restaurants.

 Instead: Focus on creating healthy family meals and connecting with the people you are eating with.  You may find you eat slower, enjoy your food more and feel more satisfied!

Instead of resolutions think about:

  1. Starting now or anytime. Don’t wait for the New Year to make changes!
  2. Being realistic. Make small changes in your day-to-day routine.  You will see the benefits in the long-term.
  3. Finding support(s). Making changes with your spouse or a friend can be fun and encouraging (and help when you are feeling less motivated).  Also, accountability can be beneficial in supporting sustainable change.
  4. Avoiding extremes. No one needs to eliminate anything from their diet.  Look at what your food is providing you: a mix of nourishment and enjoyment.  It’s the frequency or quantity that may need to change.
  5. Avoiding diets. There is no point to eating from a diet plan that you know you can’t live with for the long-term.  Diets and diet culture may actually lead to more weight gain.
  6. Avoiding bad advice. Avoid advice from online celebrities, personal testimonials and people trying to sell you their product. Just because they are famous, popular or pop up in your online search does not mean they are health experts.
  7. Avoiding “all or none” thinking. There will be moments of getting off track – that does not mean you failed.  It’s when you allow your negative thoughts to keep you off track that leads to an unhealthy lifestyle.
  8. Taking a wholistic approach to health. Maybe your food intake and fitness are healthy but is stress being managed? Stress can impact physical health in so many ways. Ie. trigger IBS symptoms, affect hormones, etc.

What changes can you make in your day to day routine that will improve your health?

*Photo by Jordan Donaldson | @jordi.d on Unsplash

Is Eliminating World Hunger Possible?

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In honor of World Food Day, I felt inspired to write about something near and dear to my heart – World Hunger.

World Food Day promotes awareness and action for eliminating world hunger, ensuring food security and access to nutritious diets for everyone.  The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) actually has a goal of achieving “zero hunger” by 2030.

Some people may believe that eradicating world hunger is an unreachable or unattainable goal but hear this:

Reaching #ZeroHunger is possible: out of the 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 have already achieved the target of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015; over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half, with about 17,000 children saved every day; extreme poverty rates have been cut in half since 1990.(fao.org)

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In the Spring of May 2000 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to The Gambia, West Africa.  The group of University students that I went with lived and worked with The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.  As an aspiring dietitian and nutrition student at the time, I was particularly interested in the nutritional aspect of feeding the hungry and sick.  We were able to help out in the schools, church and the hospital.  Never did I realize how life-changing this experience would be.

One of the most memorable days was working with The Sisters of Charity (Then Mother Teresa’s order of nuns and now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) at a malnourished children’s center.   The day we were there 28 children were present ranging from ~2-4 years old.  Some of the children had protruding stomachs (Kwashiorkor or bacterial infection?), some had severe stunting of growth and some also had disabilities.  We helped feed the children but also just held them or played with them as many were just seeking some love and attention (they would cry until you picked them up).

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Working at the hospital definitely took me out of my comfort zone and I experienced a very different reality than healthcare in Canada.  Another young woman and I were tasked to help in the kitchen and then help deliver the food to the hospital patients.  Tasks included peeling potatoes and carrots or helping out wherever needed.  We were sent with baskets of hard-boiled eggs to wards with beds with at least 2 children per bed (on either end).  One day by surprise they put a towel on my head, placed a very large pan of hot millet porridge with peanut butter mixed in (for protein) on my head and asked me to deliver it.  We walked across the street and into the hospital to several other wards this way. (I was so nervous I was going to spill!)  They had a 1 Week Cycle Menu at the hospital (this is not inclusive – only what I helped with and documented in my journal):

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My experience in Africa changed me forever and I (like many others doing this type of work) claim that “you always seem to gain more from it than you give”.  Experiencing a country with extreme poverty and starvation puts into perspective how much we have to be grateful for and definitely strengthened my faith.

Not everyone has the opportunity to volunteer in another country nor is it necessary.  However, whether you are helping to fight hunger in your own community or supporting an international organization, both are equally important.  Just know that ending World Hunger is possible!

3 International Organizations working on World Hunger: (that I have learned about recently)

  1. Mary’s Meals: www.marysmeals.ca 

Provides one good meal every school day to some of the world’s poorest children (where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education).  Impressive: Focus on sustainability as Mary’s Meals buys locally sourced food to boost local economies.  By focusing on the education of children they are helping break the poverty cycle and aim for eventual self-sufficiency in the communities they are supporting.  Also, Mary’s Meals are very committed to keeping their running costs low.  For every $1.00 donated the organization spends a minimum of $0.93 on their charitable activities. (only 7 cents spent on governance and fundraising)

2. MANA: (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid) www.mananutrition.org

Develops and provides solutions to address severe cases of malnutrition in children. They produce a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) made of a fortified peanut paste.  Impressive: MANA directly empowers mothers (most often in a village setting) to feed their children and prevent suffering or death from severe acute malnutrition.  It’s great to see a non-profit innovating therapeutic nutrition products and supporting groups to help local communities make their own RUTF.

3. Chalice: www.chalice.ca

Uses a direct family funding model to dispense sponsorship funds for a child’s education, nutrition and medical care.  Impressive: Each parent/guardian receives training in basic financial literacy (they are educated, supported and held accountable for funds spent) to help them manage their child’s sponsorship funds.  This encourages self-reliance and greater participation in their children’s education.  Over 90% of funds go directly to programs.  (Chalice received an “A” in Money Sense Charity rating.)