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The Church’s Efforts to Improve Nutrition for Women and Children, One by One

The Church of Jesus Christ prioritizes the health and well-being of women and children around the world through multiple ways

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson attends a nutritional screening event for children and their mothers in Manila, Philippines, on November 18, 2023. 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Mary Richards, Church News

As Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson participated in a malnutrition screening for children in Manila, Philippines, she saw parents receive support, get connected to community resources and learn about proper nutrition for their children.

“There is nothing more gratifying than having the opportunity to work on and participate in an event like this where we’re bringing temporal and, frankly, spiritual relief to our loved ones, our brothers and sisters around the world,” President Johnson said.

Medical volunteers took measurements of each child and provided counseling. Mothers received personal attention and focus. Families learned about wasting, stunting and other health issues — and what to do about it.

Similar screenings have taken place in multiple countries around the world. They are part of a global effort from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to improve the health and development of children under 5 and their mothers by reducing malnutrition and promoting healthy eating.

“We look at a problem at a global level and we say we know we have children who are malnourished … but the way we are going to address that challenge is one by one,” President Johnson said.

Klee Marleigh Bondoc, 2, attends a nutritional screening with her parents, Peter David and Ronalyn Bondoc, in Manila, Philippines, on Saturday, November 18, 2023.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In the scriptures, the Savior gives the commandment to care for women and children (see for example Exodus: 22:22-24; Doctrine and Covenants 83:2, 4; Mosiah 4:14; Mark 9:36-37 and Matthew 18:14).

The Church believes that prioritizing the care of women and children blesses not only those who receive aid but also their families and communities.

The Church strives to improve nutrition through:

Family Empowerment: Families work to improve their children’s nutrition. Local Church councils and ministering brothers and sisters assist families with knowledge, resources and support to implement nutritional best practices in their own homes.

Community Assistance: Church support at the community level is led by area leadership who know the needs and resources of their communities best, connecting the local community to resources in their area.

Global Support: The Church work with humanitarian organizations to provide global support to prevent and eliminate child malnutrition from conception to age five.

“No humanitarian effort is more foundational to Christ’s Church than feeding the hungry. ... As we serve together, we extend the reach of Christ’s loving arms,” President Johnson said.

Member-focused Efforts to Improve Child Nutrition

Because child malnutrition is common worldwide, it affects children of the Church as well.

An objective to alleviate malnutrition and improve health for all member children under age 5 is being done through:

  • Teaching stake/district councils and Relief Society leaders to identify malnutrition through proper screening.
  • Providing proper treatment through nutritional supplementation, education, immunizations and other health care services.
  • Educating families on follow-up care, with the help of ministering brothers and sisters.

Church buildings are used as a safe, central place for screenings.

Sister J. Anette Dennis, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, said in instances involving Latter-day Saints, the entire congregation is being brought together.

“We see Relief Society sisters caring for their neighbors. We see young people helping. Not only are young adults helping, but they’ll be better prepared, as they become parents, to one day help their own children,” Sister Dennis said.

Said Sister Kristin M. Yee, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, “Relief Society sisters are already nurturing others in their homes and communities. Even if they aren’t directly involved [in this effort], they’re part of a global sisterhood that is making a difference in people’s lives.”

A UNICEF worker uses arm bands to detect malnutrition in children in drought-stricken areas of northeastern Uganda, in March 2023.
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Collaborating with Global Organizations for Childhood Nutrition

During an October 2022 general conference address titled “Helping the Poor and Distressed,” President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said that the Church of Jesus Christ is committed to serving those in need, and it is also committed to cooperating with others in that effort.

“While each humanitarian organization has its own areas of specialization, we share the common goal of relieving suffering among God’s children,” he said.

The Church strives to care for those in need by engaging in humanitarian efforts with the greatest possible impact — and supporting charitable and government organizations with similar goals to identify opportunities for collaboration on key areas of need.

In some cases, the Church makes contributions to provide immediate food assistance, while in other instances the Church gives support to self-reliance projects that improve a family’s ability to provide for themselves.

Woman and children at a malnutrition screening session in the village of Ngolo, in the Northern region of Burkina Faso. Mothers learn how to measure their children and there is also demonstration of preparing enriched porridge.UNICEF/UN0640839/Dejongh
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For example, in 2022, the Church donated $32 million to support the World Food Programme’s work to end world hunger. Because of this donation, thousands of women and children received critical relief for their immediate needs.

In addition, the World Food Programme was able to build long-term resilience and self-reliance by educating parents about nutrition and helping communities develop sustainable farming to address food scarcity and support nutritious diets.

In Liberia, the World Food Programme — with Church funding — has supported several smallholder farmers cooperatives to become self-reliant, and provided a garden and hot meals for an elementary school. While in Kenya, children received nutrient-rich foods and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were blessed by a highly fortified porridge.

A service day on February 8 at the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City celebrated 10 years of collaboration between the Church and World Food Programme.

Barron Segar, president and CEO of the World Food Program USA, thanked the Church for contributing their volunteers and resources to bless countless lives. He could not think of another organization on the planet that over the last 10 years has impacted 6 million lives in 46 different countries.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is our most important partner. ... Fewer people are hungry today because of the Church and the World Food Programme,” he said.

President Camille N. Johnson, Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, boxes food during a service day, hosted by the church to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its relationship with the United Nations World Food Programme and World Food Program USA, at Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City on Thursday, February 8, 2024. Photo by Kristin Murphy, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.
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In the Philippines, the Church donated to Caritas Manila, a nonprofit organization from the Catholic Church in the country. The support is helping provide six months of daily supplemental meals, vitamins and hygiene items for over 1,000 children in different parts of metro Manila

The Church has also supported UNICEF’s “No Time To Waste” global malnutrition campaign with materials to assist with the prevention, detection and treatment of wasting and other forms of malnutrition in multiple countries.

And in August 2023, the Church announced a donation of a combined $44 million to multiple charitable organizations to promote childhood nutrition in 30 countries. The funding was expected to help an estimated 2 million mothers and children impacted by food insecurity.

Other Efforts That Bless Women and Children

Besides a focus on nutrition, the Church also works to bless women and children through maternal and newborn care, immunizations and education worldwide.

By providing training, medical equipment, and education for new mothers, the Church works to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates while providing better care for mothers and their babies.

The Church is currently supporting Save the Children in a five-year effort to address infant growth failure in eight countries.

The program looks at the factors that influence negative outcomes for young babies, including maternal nutrition and poor care before and after birth. And the effort provides fundamental services including community screening, early identification of high-risk pregnancies, improved maternal nutrition and quality newborn care through water, sanitation and hygiene support.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a combined $44 million donation to Catholic Relief Services and other organizations in August 2023 to combat global childhood malnutrition. Photo by Anny Djahova, Catholic Relief Services, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
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Church medical volunteers join with local networks to provide neonatal and maternal care training called “Helping Babies Breathe” in several countries. This training for midwives directly addresses infant mortality.

In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the Church has collaborated with local government and community organizations to support the Nursing Midwifery and Development Center. This project provides training and support for nurses and midwives, thereby reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in the area.

The Church and JustServe.org — a website and app sponsored by the Church where organizations can list volunteer leads — are supporting the the Maternal Outcomes Matter Showers, or MOMS, tour in the United States, which is a series of community baby showers in cities with high infant mortality.

Health care and immunizations are a priority for the Church because these efforts reduce child mortality rates and the risks of long-term health issues. Through this work, undertaken with collaborating organizations, the Church helps ensure children can grow to reach their full potential.

Meanwhile, supporting education for women and children builds their potential and creates more future opportunities. The Church takes part in hundreds of projects each year to enhance both access to and quality of education around the world.

“Whenever we do anything to bring relief to others — temporal or spiritual — we are bringing them to Jesus Christ and will be blessed to find our own relief in Him,” President Johnson said. “We are grateful for the opportunities God gives us every day to love our neighbor.”

In addition to health care resources, attendees of the Chicago Citywide Community Baby Shower on Nov. 5, 2022, were showered with food, entertainment and activities for their children and themselves. Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson served food to new and expectant mothers.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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How to Learn More and Get Involved

Men and fathers are also crucial to this effort of improving the lives of women and children. Elevating the welfare of women and children often starts with men and fathers, explained ChurchofJesusChrist.org, which has many resources about nutrition and well-being.

Most often, men and fathers have the biggest impact when they apply principles of service and love within their own homes, families and communities. They can learn about proper nutrition or the health and sanitation needs of women and then apply what they learn.

Church members can help uplift women and children in their community by starting in their own home. Talk with a spouse, mother, sisters, or daughters to learn more about the issues they face and how they’d like to receive help.

Reach out to local nonprofits, government agencies, and other trusted organizations to learn more. Check JustServe.org for local or remote volunteer opportunities.

Senior missionary opportunities are available in these areas of humanitarian aid and welfare and self-reliance. They can be pursued at seniormissionary.churchofjesuschrist.org.

Generous donations make a difference to those in need. Information about how those donations are used can be found at philanthropies.churchofjesuschrist.org/humanitarian-services/.

Learn more about the humanitarian efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints at Caring.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and through Church News coverage at thechurchnews.com/humanitarian-efforts.

A mother feeds her infant son a therapeutic food supplement at the Bolgatanga Nutrition and Rehabilitation center in Bolgatanga, Ghana.UNICEF/UNI191973/Asselin
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