Students at the Community Based Childcare Center in Malawi, Africa, become healthy, well-fed, and better learners at school after receiving nutrition such as VitaMeal each day for lunch.
Xiao Bai He, an orphan in Hengshui region, China, who suffered from severe malnutrition, is happy and healthy after receiving VitaMeal for several months.
According to UNICEF (State of the World’s Children, 2008), “Every day, on average, more than 26,000 children under the age of five die around the world, mostly from preventable causes. … In up to half of under-five deaths an underlying cause is under-nutrition, which deprives a young child’s body and mind of the nutrients needed for growth and development.” If only a small percentage of the population was willing to contribute two meals per day, millions of lives could be saved.
Ten years ago Nu Skin took action to address the tragedy of childhood hunger with our Nourish the Children (NTC) initiative. This innovative social enterprise applies the rigor of successful business practices to provide a consistent and growing supply of nourishing food to the children in the world with the greatest need. Since it was established, the Nu Skin family has donated more than 250 million meals to malnourished children in more than 50 countries.
Direct Selling News recently honored Nu Skin and our NTC initiative with the Bravo Award for humanitarian leadership at its Global 100 awards gala. We were deeply honored they selected us and noted our innovative approach to world hunger.
Nu Skin’s Mission: Be a Force for Good
Our success at Nu Skin can be attributed to many things—great products, great leaders and great markets. But there is an additional critical element—the giving, nurturing, generous culture that we have built with our distributors. This unique culture is so central to our success that it is built into our guiding company mission statement:
“Our mission is to be a force for good throughout the world by empowering people to improve lives with rewarding business opportunities, innovative products, and an enriching, uplifting culture.”
Nu Skin’s force for good culture is not just a slogan we can point to when telling others about the business. Our commitment to improving lives is an integral part of who we are and what we do at Nu Skin. That is why we launched our Nourish the Children initiative—it made sense because being a force for good was in our DNA.
Why the Nourish the Children Initiative
Consider the fact that every day more than 15,000 children die from malnutrition. That is 105,000 children a week and 450,000 children each month, which means every year, 5.5 million children die because they do not have enough food to eat. One child starving would be too many—hundreds of thousands is an untenable blight on civilization.
Through NTC we are helping children in a very innovative way. It is an entirely new approach to helping children. Nourish the Children is a free enterprise approach to alleviating starvation among the world’s most vulnerable people—its children. NTC combines the rigors and efficiencies of successful business with the inherent goodness of Nu Skin’s employees, distributors and customers to address the epidemic of hunger and malnutrition.
In 2011 alone, the Nu Skin family purchased and donated more than 20 million meals for malnourished children in nearly 20 countries.
Nu Skin makes a special food for malnourished children called VitaMeal®. It is developed by Nu Skin nutritional scientists and collaborators. Specially formulated for malnourished children, VitaMeal features 25 vitamins and minerals, as well as a careful balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat and electrolytes. Our employees, distributors and customers purchase bags of VitaMeal the same way they purchase any other Nu Skin products. The product is then donated to one of our nonprofit charity partners, who distribute the meals at no cost to the children with the greatest need. Regular VitaMeal shipments are sent to feed hundreds of thousands of children in places such as Africa, China, the Philippines, Thailand and South America. In 2011 alone, the Nu Skin family purchased and donated more than 20 million meals for malnourished children in nearly 20 countries.
Making a Difference in Malawi
Malawi is one of the many places that Nu Skin is making a difference in the lives of children. A couple of years ago, I accompanied a group of Nu Skin distributors on a trip to Malawi. The African country has a population of about 12 million people, 2 million of whom are AIDS orphans. One morning we drove a couple of hours out of Lilongwe to a village, which houses about 100 of these AIDS orphans in a little one-room, red-brick schoolhouse where we would help serve VitaMeal. As we arrived and entered the school, the kids were wall to wall, sitting cross-legged on the floor singing songs. There was no furniture. They sang with such enthusiasm that you almost wanted to protect your ears.
Outside there was a wood fire, built of branches broken off of nearby trees. Soon there was a large pot of water on the fire being mixed with VitaMeal.
A line formed as bowls were filled and passed with spoons to the front children, and then deeper into the room. I was in the back of the room surrounded by 100 little bodies vibrating with excitement. The sweet smells of VitaMeal filled the air, just like in your mother’s kitchen.
I stepped outside for a minute to catch my breath and gather myself, and I leaned against the back wall. I looked out and saw in the distance women in every direction running and pushing their children ahead of them. Word had gotten out that there was food in the village, and they came running for miles. I went back inside and word trickled to us in the back of the room that we were running out of food. There were still a dozen kids without a bowl. Our hearts sank as the last portions passed through our hands.
The children saw that the food was running out, and then this amazing thing happened. As the last four or five bowls were handed out, the children who received those bowls walked through the crowd, spread themselves out in the back of the room, dropped to the floor, and instead of eating, pushed their bowls out in front of them and invited others to sit down, then passed spoons around and shared. Everyone got some spoonfuls. Soon the children were back to singing and laughing.
As I looked around the room, I realized we were the only ones crying. The children were fine. They were used to this—were used to making the best of things. It occurred to me that even in this difficult place there were more smiles than tears. Lots more.
Later that day we took a truck full of VitaMeal and distributed that to the parents in this village, and those mothers who I had seen running through the countryside were now celebrating and returning home with enough food to keep their families healthy for a while.
Through the years I have had the immense privilege of witnessing the difference Nu Skin is making in people’s lives, particularly through our distributors’ kindness and generosity. I have seen our distributors’ goodness, offering a hand of hope to children who stood helpless with disease, hunger and poverty. I have looked into the children’s faces and seen their gratitude because of the support of the Nu Skin family. At its heart, this is what this business is all about—lifting people, helping them to become more than they thought was possible, and then inspiring others to do the same.
Steve Lund is Nu Skin Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Nourish the Children.