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Food is one of the most important basic human rights. Even though global food production is more than the demand, the geopolitical and distributional bureaucracy causes 10% of the global population to go hungry each day. Against the backdrop of such a pressing issue, one organization is aiming to challenge the status quo with one child and one meal at a time. Here’s the inspiring story of Thrive.

Thrive: A Non-Profit Organization’s Attempt to Answer Hunger
What is Thrive?

Thrive is a 501c3 and Bangladesh Registered Trust that currently operates in Bangladesh and the Philippines. Thrive was co-founded and started by Priscilla Heffelfinger, Regina Landor, and Gina Gabel. The main goal of the organization is to provide nutritious meals to school-going children every day.

The Story of Thrive

It all started back in 2012. Priscilla Heffelfinger has just moved to Dhaka, accompanying her husband, who was the country director of CDC and had a role with ICDDR, B. Priscilla Heffelfinger, along with Regina Landor and Gina Gabel, saw hungry children and knew they wanted to help.

They asked local schools what they needed most, and the resounding response was food. The children were either not showing up or were too hungry to learn took the first initiative for a definitive answer to student hunger.

Thrive grew, but not overnight. It took the work and dedication of many volunteers willing to give their time to help hungry kids. While Thrive began as an expat start-up, it grew due to the generous support of the Bangladesh community.

Local leaders Amna Rahman, Sadia Moyeen, and Kanwal Bhagat, who joined in 2013, propelled Thrive’s work by engaging local individuals and companies to commit financial support, in-kind donations, and their volunteer talents to expand our work to feed more needy schoolchildren.
But there were a lot of constraints while starting. The idea was to help socially neglected children by means of support. But support how exactly?

The Need for Food

While doing groundwork, Priscilla and her team found that the most pressing need for growing children is the lack of adequate micro and macro nutrients. Social welfare schools set up for economically challenged students pointed out that the immediate need for such institutes isn’t often money. Rather a meal since a fair share of students are unfed or half fed.

Going hungry often challenges these students to reevaluate their priorities. As a result, there are a large number of student dropouts who opt for wage-earning instead of going to school.
Priscilla and her team thought of this as the exact opportunity. Having worked in the development sector for over 20 years, Priscilla understood the imminent need. A mix of two basic human rights is fulfilled through food.

How Does Thrive Work?

Thrive is different from traditional NGOs or INGOs in Bangladesh in the sense that it was initially an expat-led social venture that aimed to work with students from slum areas. The venture has been supported by both local and international well-wishers and has seen rapid growth over the years.

Currently, Thrive serves nutritious meals to over 12000 students each week in Bangladesh and the Philippines. Thrive claims that there is an imminent wait list of another 3000 students waiting to be incorporated into their meal plan.
Now feeding hungry children and school performance may seem unrelated. But from the socio-economic concept of Bangladesh, where 50 million people live in extreme poverty, it’s not surprising that child labor is ever so prevalent. These children turn into breadwinners for themselves and their families while they should have been studying.
With a nutritious meal each day, hunger is addressed. The balanced diet ensures children are getting their essentials which act as brain fuel. The culmination is increased concentration, focus, physical and mental development as well as increased attendance in classes.

Mission and Vision of Thrive

The main mission of Thrive is to provide nutritious, healthy food to school students in the slum area. Currently Thrive is working with 2401 students in Bangladesh through 13 different non-governmental organizations. Eight of them are in Dhaka and five are outside Dhaka. The initiative in the Philippines is still at the nascent stage, with 225 children through two community programs.
The current global production of food is enough to feed all the world’s population. But just because there isn’t any efficient sharing mechanism, 1 in 10 people goes hungry around the globe. Study shows that about 40% of all produced and processed foods are wasted in developed countries like the USA. The story is somewhat similar for other developed nations as well.

In Bangladesh, there is a dire constraint of micronutrients in the diet of growing children. Almost 75% of the children do not get the balanced diet that they need for proper physical and mental development. Study shows that over 36% of the children in Bangladesh are suffering from growth stunting. That puts Bangladesh at the bottom quarter of the list among high-risk countries.

The root cause of the risk is exactly what Thrive is trying to access. The non-profit estimates that it requires only 50 cents for a meal for children each day. The ultimate vision is a world where no one goes hungry.

Meals Provided by Thrive

Thrive aims at two main indicators – hunger and nutrition. In a growing child, both macros and micros play a huge role in overall growth and development. With that in mind, the meal is prepared, deviating from the traditional meal concept.

It’s an essential mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, shingara, and milk. Fruits and vegetables like bananas, oranges, carrots, cucumbers, and mango help to replenish the required vitamin intake of the body. Milk, nuts, and eggs surmise the protein needed. Thrive serves eggs two times per week, and milk is served once a week.

How to Be a Part of Thrive?

There are three ways to be a part of Thrive. You can become a member through their FEED program. This is a monthly donation scheme which is also the main funding source of Thrive. You can also opt to contribute online, bank deposit, or pick up the donation. You can find the details just by contacting Thrive here.
But Thrive also wants you to be a part of their endeavor. Instead of donations, you can be part of the program by organizing fundraisers. You can sponsor a school for a day or a month or the whole year. You can create a virtual fundraiser instead of a birthday party this year. There are many ways to commit and contribute to their great cause.

The Way Ahead

With over 3,142,373 meals served today, Thrive is still getting started. In its decade-long endeavor, the non-profit has made considerable strides in addressing child hunger in certain domains.

But the work isn’t done, and there is a lot to do. Thrive and its local leaders are constantly trying to make the world a little less hungry, whether being one student at a time. It’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, and your help will only help to expedite the process.


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