The key takeaway? The problem is entirely solvable.
Yesterday, fashion designer Michael Kors hosted an intimate panel of editors (FASHION Canada included) and influencers at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to talk about the global food crisis. He was joined by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Antonella D’Aprile from the World Food Programme for the eye-opening discussion.
Ending world hunger is one of the key causes close to the designer’s heart. He is on the board of New York charity God’s Love We Deliver (whose annual awards ceremony attracted a whole host of celebrities overnight) and he began the Watch Hunger Stop initiative back in 2013 to help draw attention to and raise money for the issue. Since it began, Watch Hunger Stop has delivered almost 19 million meals to children around the globe – and yet, there is still work to be done.
“The hunger pandemic around the world, 1 in 9 people not getting the nutrition they need, is something that we can actually roll up our sleeves and get accomplished,” he told the room. “It became apparent to me that this is a solvable problem. There is enough food. We have to make noise, we have to let people know that they can get involved, that they can make a difference. For me, it’s also gratifying to know that it’s more than just delivering a meal – we are changing the way future generations will live in many of these places.”
Antonella D’Aprile of the World Food Programme (WFP) agrees. “Food is a right for everyone: women, men, girls, boys. What we realized is that girls are being left behind. Especially in a climate crisis, for example, when there’s no harvest, the first ones to drop out are girls because they have to take care of the youngest children at home or help with the chores.” She says there are two main strategies the WFP has implemented to help try and change this in Nicaragua in particular. The first? “We’re trying to empower the mothers economically so that they get to understand that their independence will make their girls independent,” she explains. Another is to introduce take-home rations at school to encourage girls who have fallen pregnant (D’Aprile says the country has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world) to return to school so that “they can finish their education and have the opportunity to make a choice in their life.” Kors says this in particular is “mind-blowing” as it’s “shifting the cycle of poverty and the education is giving all of these young girls an opportunity to be their best selves, an opportunity they would not have been given otherwise.”
“For me, it’s also gratifying to know that it’s more than just delivering a meal – we are changing the way future generations will live in many of these places.” – Michael Kors
Nyong’o, who is the face of the 2019 Watch Hunger Stop campaign, was asked by moderator Cleo Wade what she hoped to achieve by being involved with the initiative. She said, “I think food and hunger are often taken for granted. Especially in a land of plenty like the one we live in here in America. It’s easy to be blind to those who are going without. And it’s not sexy, hunger. So I guess why I wanted to be involved was because I could. I could lend my face to this, and hopefully give a new voice, a new face and attract some new attention that can get us closer to the goal that these incredible companies have set out to achieve. I could do my bit in that way.”
For Nyong’o, philanthropy was instilled in her from a young age by her parents. “Giving was just a part of my psyche growing up and it continues to be. For me, it’s not an effort, I don’t have to remember it, it’s just a part of my understanding of my humanity.” Humanity, and respecting it in all of its forms, is also something she learned from her mother and father. “We went to the slums in Kenya and we also went to huge spellbinding homes, so I was exposed to a large spectrum of the human experience,” she recalls. “And what I learned from going to all those places is that both of my parents interacted in these spaces with the same kind of respect and dignity – they just valued humanity. I watched that and I learned it.”
As for what he’s most proud of since launching Watch Hunger Stop, Kors says, “I’m really proud of our fans, customers and employees for not only getting involved, but staying involved. I am very proud of the fact that seven years in we’re almost at 19 million meals. It is way beyond the number that we thought we’d be at at this point so it lets me know that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
As for why partnerships like the one with Kors and Watch Hunger Stop are important, D’Aprile explains, “We need to partner, we need people to advocate, to remind people that 1 in 9 people go to bed with an empty stomach. We need to raise awareness, and we need to be together to solve the hunger problem. Because it is solvable. Let’s remember, as Michael said, the world can produce enough food for everyone so this is something that we can do together. Use your platforms, use your communities, your families and really raise awareness about the hunger issue. Partnership is key to achieve a zero hunger world.”
“It is solvable. The world can produce enough food for everyone so this is something that we can do together.” – Antonella D’Aprile, World Food Programme
To donate to the WFP, or to find out more about the fight to end world hunger, click here. You can also purchase a T-shirt or tote from Michael Kors’ ‘Food Is Love’ collection. 100 per cent of the profits from the sale of each will be donated directly to the WFP. Plus, Kors will donate an extra 100 meals to WFP for every selfie shared on social of someone wearing the products with the hashtag #watchhungerstop.