Every child has huge potential just waiting to be unlocked. Unfortunately, many never get the chance to grow into those possibilities because of lack of food, water, and basic necessities.
According to the Copenhagen Consensus  2012 – a conference and collaboration of 65 global economists to study 40 potential investments for tackling the world’s toughest problems – nutrition is the most important investment possible in the developing world.
In fact, every $1 invested in micronutrients for children yields $30 worth of economic returns over the lifetime of the child.
The importance of nutrition is clear: Proper nutrition means better health, the ability for children to concentrate and learn in school, and the needed energy for people to work and earn an income.
Food is a crucial piece of the foundation for all other progress.
Dr. Peter Orazem, professor of economics at Iowa State University, was invited to present his research on improving education in the developing world at the Copenhagen Consensus 2012. Dr. Orazem said,
“A kid who starts off nutritionally able can learn in a not-so-great school. But even a kid in the greatest school in the world who’s hungry, who doesn’t have the micronutrients or the proteins that are necessary to develop, is not going to learn.”
If children don’t receive nutrition early, potential can be lost. Dr. Orazem tells this true story:
“There was a kid who grew up in Sudan. He lost his family. He managed somehow to get into a refugee camp and get some food. Eventually, he was sent to the United States. And the kid did well enough in high school that he actually came to my university, Iowa State University.
“He ran cross-country, and then he ran in the Olympic Games. He finished 48th in the marathon. … If you look at probably 10 other kids who were in the same circumstance, they’re no longer alive today. And that kid grows up to be an Olympian.”
Thankfully, many nonprofits are tackling hunger and nutrition as a core focus of their work. Feeding programs  through school, like the ones offered by Compassion International, unlock potential in children.
Dr Orazem says,
“We don’t know who or what somebody’s potential is, but we know there’s tons of potential in all these children. A life lost is a potential lost.
“It may be that one of those kids is going to grow up and be the scientist that comes up with the breakthrough that’s going to be the agricultural revolution in Africa. At a very low cost, you’re increasing the number of people with that potential, by simply providing them a few nutrients at a very young age.”
Solving the world’s problems may be complex, but proper nutrition for children is a necessary element to ensure a strong foundation for so much more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Gneiser  tells stories and manages the social media at Feed My Starving Children , an international nonprofit in the business of helping volunteers turn hunger into hope with their own two hands.
*Photos courtesy of Feed My Starving Children .