Using Sport to End Hunger and Achieve Food Security



Sport can serve as a catalyst for achieving all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is poised, however, to make a unique impact on Goal 2, which aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. Sport programmes associated with nutrition and agriculture can complement programmes that tackle hunger and support education. Beneficiaries can be educated and engaged in sustainable food production and balanced diets. The spirit of sport is linked to the nutrition and wellness of a community or individual; this connection between sport and health can be used to highlight inefficiencies in the global food supply chain.

Within a growing global population of 7.4 billion people, 793 million still suffer from chronic hunger. The world currently produces more than enough food to feed everyone. Up to one third of food produced for consumption is wasted each year, however, due to spoilage; recovering just half of what is lost or wasted could feed the planet. Worldwide, an estimated 161 million children under five years of age are chronically malnourished. Micronutrient deficiencies affect more than 2 billion people, hindering human and socioeconomic development and continuously contributing to the cycle of malnutrition. Along with those suffering from malnutrition are the 500 million people globally who are overweight and obese. Both of these issues present complex problems and inhibit the productivity and well-being of populations across the globe.

Vulnerable countries, communities and individuals are able to connect to community services through sport-based outreach programmes, which instil a sense of hope in situations that may otherwise seem hopeless. Sport and recreational activities provide a release for people struggling with day-to-day challenges, allowing them to take their minds off of what they are facing. A sense of pride can be felt when a country that is facing hunger, food insecurity or other turmoil comes together to support its athletes and team. This creates a common voice and a common denominator for the country, which can transform into a global common denominator.

The core mission of The Jack Brewer Foundation (JBF Worldwide) is to provide relief to communities around the world suffering from extreme poverty and hunger, using sport as its catalyst. JBF Worldwide has raised funds to send meals to those in extreme famine areas—over 300,000 meals have been shipped to date—and assists in providing clean water, food, medical care and education to children around the world. Local partnerships have also enabled JBF Worldwide to bring food and shelter to those closer to home. The Foundation’s ongoing mission is to provide communities with the resources they need to maintain children’s safety and ensure their healthy upbringing.

Since its inception in 2006, the Foundation has been mobilizing professional athletes to bring awareness and recognition to the issues of hunger and food insecurity, among others. The JBF Worldwide Global Ambassadors Program connects influential people, including current and former professional athletes, artists and entertainers, to philanthropic organizations. The Global Ambassadors, an ever-expanding network of over 100 members, travel the world to make a positive social impact in communities through sport. Their ongoing efforts in every community have strengthened food security and improved quality of life through medical aid and disaster relief, education programmes, cultural exchanges, and sport-for-development initiatives, while striving to “empower from within”. Bringing these Global Ambassadors to areas and communities in need, including some of the most impoverished States in the world, such as Haiti and Malawi, creates a dialogue between organizations, fans and others through an influential individual.

The first-ever Global Ambassadors delegation arrived in Malawi in 2008, providing an opportunity to capture the attention of the country’s youth and educate them about nutrition. The delegation used sport as a tool to unite and engage with the community. In partnership with the One World Play Project and Chevrolet, it donated over 11,000 footballs and hosted a friendly youth football match and other organized sporting activities. During the trip, the delegation met with representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and with the Malawian Ministries of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; Health; Youth and Sports Development; and Agriculture, Irrigation and Water. For Malawi, a country with an ever-growing population of 15 million, the importance of food production is paramount. Malawi recently declared, as of 14 April 2016, a state of national disaster amid the latest crop estimates showing a drop of 12.5 per cent compared to the 2014–2015 growing season, confirming fears of an ongoing food crisis that may last into 2017. The country faces a deficit of 1.2 million metric tons of food in the form of maize (corn). Malawi is just one of 37 countries requiring external food assistance in 2016.

As a former professional athlete, I can attest to the fact that sport can help reduce stigma and increase self-esteem, self-confidence and social skills, all of which lead to increased employability. Using sport as a catalyst for social change, peace and development, especially as it pertains to ending hunger and achieving global food security, has always been a passion of mine. One of my Foundation’s very first initiatives was developing a microfinance programme in Malawi, in coordination with the Joyce Banda Foundation International, to assist over 10,000 individuals by providing loans to 676 families. Our goal with the microfinance programme is to ensure food security for 100,000 residents living in the Domasi region of Malawi. The majority of loans amount to less than $10, and provide sufficient resources for a family to purchase government-subsidized fertilizer to triple their harvest over a growing season. Women are the focal point of our efforts because their progress continues to be impeded by local cultural beliefs and practices that prevent them from contributing towards the economic livelihood of their villages. We believe that progress must begin with the mother, and this initiative provides the means for these women to empower themselves, their families and their villages.

Currently, we are making progress towards launching a line of sports nutrition products with RiceBran Technologies. A one-to-one business model, similar to that used by the TOMS footwear company, will be employed to assist orphanages and organizations in Malawi. RiceBran Technologies will provide nutritious food supplements to children currently residing in or requiring assistance from local orphanages. Through these orphanages, we have supported over 3,800 children over the past decade, many of whom have remained in the care of such facilities to receive the assistance needed to gain success. The sports nutrition line will offer an additional mode of providing meals and services to the children for every product bought commercially in the United States. In order to execute this programme, the Jack Brewer Foundation will provide data on child malnutrition levels and visit Malawi this year with the Global Ambassadors Program to bring sport and confidence to the communities.

From my perspective as an Ambassador for Peace and Sport to the United Federation for Peacekeeping and Sustainable Development, it is clear that sport affects more than just Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is important to understand that nutrition and wellness are the basis for sport, incorporated in ways to instil healthy lifestyles, but also to rally together communities in support of a common denominator. By bringing athletes into the JBF Worldwide Global Ambassadors Program to share our mission throughout the world, outreach to communities in need is brought to the forefront. The food crisis that 793 million people are facing must also be at the forefront of our global discourse.