By Mary Pat Brennan
Do conversations matter? Do my conversations matter? Do yours? If conversations are about connecting with others then the morning conversation with my housemate over coffee, the Skype chat with my daughter, and the small talk I make on the elevator all matter, even if only to me and perhaps one other person.
But some conversations matter more than others. Some have the power to inform and plant seeds for the future–and even contribute to making the world a better place.
When we discuss maternal and child nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, we’re having a conversation that could change the world. According to information in Bread for the World Institute’s 2013 Hunger Report , “[h]unger during this time is catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible.”
Here in the United States, programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) provide a nutritionally sound foundation for children who would otherwise suffer the debilitating effects of malnutrition. Dollar for dollar, supporting the nutrition of pregnant women and babies is money “best” spent, whether those funds go to domestic programs or international development aid.
The 1,000 Days Movement calls on each of us to be conversation starters who initiate discussions about maternal and child nutrition, at both the grassroots and grasstops levels. The goal is to ensure that women who are pregnant and infants from birth to age 2 receive the nutritious diet they require. Malnutrition can lead to life-threatening physical and mental health issues, such as stunting, protein deficiency, and lifelong physical and cognitive problems.
Conversations enable us to connect and construct meaning. We leave conversations changed. When we receive new information, we begin to think differently, and often act differently. Our priorities change. We become not just “hearers” but “doers” who “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” We may even unite with others so that our legislators and political leaders know that policies that alleviate hunger here in the United States and in developing countries matter.
Our conversations can change the world, so start making your conversations matter to hungry people. Join the 1,000 conversations initiative and pledge to have 1,000 conversations about maternal and child nutrition in 1,000 days.
Mary Pat Brennan is a program management and capacity building professional and a member of Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement.