Our international giving partner, The World Food Programme (WFP), is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries. We recently sat down with Lauren Landis, the Director of WFP’s Nutrition Division, when she was visiting NYC from WFP headquarters in Geneva. Read on for Lauren’s take on the power of nutrition to help the most vulnerable communities.

Let’s get started. Can you tell us a bit of your background? My name is Lauren Landis, and I’m the director of the nutrition division within the World Food Programme. I’ve been with WFP for nine years, most recently as country director to Chad, where I saw a lot of the nutrition issues in play that I’m now working on.

For someone who might be new to the issue of hunger, can you set the stage for us? What are we facing when we talk about food insecurity? Today, there are about 800 million people in the world who are food insecure. In my work I focus on the 159 million children under two who are stunted. When we stay stunted, we tend to think that a child is short for his or her age. But it’s really much more than that. Stunting has an impact on brain development. We find that kids that are stunted not only don’t do as well in school - they also have a lot more health problems and experience dramatically reduced productivity throughout their lives.  So reducing stunting in children is a huge thing I’m focused on in my role.

School feeding is an effective way to improve health and access to education

Speaking of children. Can you talk about the power of school feeding? One of the great things about WFP is that we really have been able to make sure that every kid who gets to school has a good meal at school. I’m sure most of your readers are aware - and experience it themselves - that when you’re hungry, it’s very difficult to concentrate and really difficult to learn. Making sure kids have a good healthy meal is something we take seriously, so kids can thrive in their environments.

My specific role in this process is to make sure that we make that school meal the healthiest meal possible so that the kids have a diversified diet. We often do this by adding micronutrients to the meal. We’re not only concerned with learning but also health.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’re talking about mother-child nutrition at lot at the FEED HQ. Can you tell us how WFP is assisting mothers and children around the world? One of the things we know for sure is that if your child can make it to two or three years old and have all the nutrients that they need, they have a much better chance of being a healthy child throughout the rest of their life. But where that begins is as soon as a mother knows she’s pregnant. It’s so essential that she have access to all the nutrients that she needs to produce a healthy child. From there, it’s equally as important to make sure that she has the knowledge, education and capacity to feed that child the healthiest diet possible from birth. That’s how we get children to survive and thrive.

WFP supports mother-child nutrition in the form of micronutrients

Finish the sentence:  Every mother deserves…a happy and healthy child.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the FEED community before we say goodbye? One of the greatest strengths of WFP is that we are there on the ground. We really do reach out to the most vulnerable communities. When you support FEED, you’re supporting those communities on the ground. We know exactly where the most vulnerable mothers and children are, and we know how to help them.