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An important, hopeful book that looks at the urgent problem of childhood malnutrition worldwide and the revolutionary progress being made to end it
Sharman will begin by talking about hunger in the United States and in New Mexico, as well as the work of the Roadrunner Food Bank here in Albuquerque. She first wrote about Roadrunner in her Hunger: An Unnatural History (Basic Books, 2005) and remembers well that long-ago visit to its warehouse. She went on to start a backpack program for schoolchildren in Silver City—sending home nutritious snacks for the weekend--and to serve on the board of Silver City’s food pantry. Today she volunteers at the food pantry in the Gila Valley, where she lives. She knows well the joy of having the Roadrunner food truck arrive with its welcome green and yellow logo.
In a half hour talk, followed by questions and answers, Sharman will move on to describe hunger worldwide and to explain why feeding the world’s children is an environmental concern, as well as a humanitarian one.
A healthy Earth requires healthy children. Yet nearly one-fourth of the world’s children are stunted physically and mentally due to a lack of food or nutrients. These children do not die but endure a lifetime of diminished potential.
During the past thirty years, says Sharman Apt Russell, we have seen a revolution in how we treat these sick children. We have a new understanding of the human body and new ways to reach out to hungry mothers and babies. We have gone from unwittingly killing severely malnourished children to bringing them back to health through the “miracle” of ready-to-eat therapeutic food.
Intertwined with stories of scientists and nutrition experts on the front lines of finding ways to end malnutrition for good, Russell writes of her travels to Malawi, one of the poorest and least-developed countries in the world and also the site of pathbreaking, cutting-edge research into childhood malnutrition. (Eighty percent of Malawians are farmers subsisting on less than an acre of land and coping with erratic weather patterns due to global warming; fifty percent live below the poverty line; and forty-two percent of Malawi’s children are affected by a lack of food or nutrients.)
As she writes of her personal exploration of new friendships and insights in a country known as “the warm heart of Africa,” Sharman describes the programs that are working best to reduce childhood stunting and explores how malnutrition in children is connected to climate change, how vitamins and minerals are preventing these harmful effects, why the empowerment of women is the single most effective factor in eliminating childhood malnutrition, and what the costs of ending childhood malnutrition are.
Sharman Russell, much-admired writer of luminous prose and humane heart, whose writing has been called, “elegant” (The Economist) and “extraordinarily well-crafted, far-reaching, and heart-wrenching” (Booklist), winner of the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing, has written an illuminating, inspiring book that makes clear the promise of what is today, gratefully, within our grasp.
Sharman Apt Russell is the author of twelve books, translated into nine languages. A professor emeritus in humanities at Western New Mexico University, she also teaches writing at Antioch University in Los Angeles. She is the author of Diary of a Citizen Scientist (winner of the 2016 John Burroughs Medal), Knocking on Heaven's Door (winner of a New Mexico/Arizona Book Award), and Teresa of the New World (winner of the Arizona Authors Association Award).