story and illustration by KAM REDLAWSK
Following my adoption from a South Korean orphanage, I remember my amazement at how much food was readily accessible in my new home in Michigan. Although my family’s was a typical middle-class household, the pantry always was stocked with snacks and my mother cooked full meals.
At the dinner table, my mother often would catch me gorging myself, even though my belly was full. I remember “stealing” food from the kitchen and hiding it in my bedroom. My mother would have to explain to me that the food would still be there tomorrow and that I would never go hungry. As a 4-year-old accustomed to a scarcity of food, I couldn’t quite grasp this concept.
Having spent part of my childhood in a crowded Korean orphanage, I had some experience of what it was like to live with the fear of hunger. My meals, I recall, usually consisted of a small bowl of rice, kimchi and sometimes an egg.
Yet, my brief experience in an orphanage is nothing like what many children worldwide experience on a daily basis.
There are approximately 805 million undernourished people in the world today, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Each year, 2.6 to 3 million children die from starvation; in addition, more than 100 million children under age five are undernourished, underweight or go to bed starving. Hunger and malnutrition, in fact, are a far bigger threat to child survival rates than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
Still, there are ways to help combat this humanitarian crisis.
A year ago, my friend Ryan Devlin shared the news that he and two good friends, Todd Grinnel and Ravi Patel, were establishing a company called This Bar Saves Lives to help chip away at the problem of child malnutrition.
Their concept? Selling gourmet, all-natural granola bars that give back. How? It’s simple: For every bar purchased, the company’s non-profit partner, Save the Children, donates a life-saving packet of Plumpy’Nut – a revolutionary, ready-to-use product that is a nutrient-rich paste made from peanuts, milk powder, sugar, vegetable oils and vitamins and minerals – to a child in need.
According to its latest quarterly report, This Bar Saves Lives has helped deliver more than 325,000 packets of the mix to malnourished children around the world – enough to help save the lives of more than 2,100 children, according to the company.
With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the commercialism of the occasion and to not think twice about tables heaped with enough food to feed a small village. So, when you’re considering gift ideas this holiday season, think of items to give not only to your loved ones but also on behalf of someone in need.
Here’s one suggestion: The granola bars sold by This Bar Saves Lives. They are perfect as stocking stuffers or for health-centric friends. Share these delicious bars at your holiday parties and events. Or give the bars as a gift that lasts all year long and sign up for the “Monthly Bar Club,” which works by delivering boxes of the granola bars automatically to you each month. (Disclaimer: I’ve worked with the company to create some initial branding concepts for promotional materials.)
Since I personally know THIS BAR’s founders, I know how much dedication and sleepless nights it took to start this company. It is an ambitious undertaking but the founders do it because of their passion to help children in need. It inspires me, and I hope it inspires you, not only this season but all year long.
For more information on how you can help address the issue of child hunger this holiday season, visit the company’s website at www.thisbarsaveslives.com for online ordering and retail locations. The granola bars are currently sold at Whole Foods, Sprouts and 500 other locations around the country.
This column will appear in the upcoming December 2014/January 2015 print issue of KoreAm.