The Washington Times - June 2, 2009, 10:34AM

I’ll admit a fondness for the World Food Program. Its mission is vital, important, and almost above argument: helping people overcome hunger. Now, the organization, which is headquartered in Rome, has some new tools to offer:

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) on Tuesday launched an exciting new array of web tools designed to engage and inform students and teachers on hunger issues.

“Today’s youth are hungry to know more about the problems which are causing food shortages across the globe —  like conflict in Pakistan, high food prices, climate change and the global financial crisis,” said Nancy Roman, WFP’s Director of Communications and Public Policy. She said that global hunger is on the rise, with 115 million people having joined the ranks of the hungry in the last two years alone.

“Our web platform provides a gateway to enlighten and engage today’s youth who, in a few short years, will be responsible for making critical decisions about the many global challenges which will persist.”

The Students and Teachers section of WFP’s recently revamped website (wfp.org) is designed to increase awareness and understanding of hunger-related problems among teachers, and allow them to easily integrate topics such as the Millennium Development Goals, of which the reduction of hunger is No.1, into the mainstream academic curriculum. The site provides creative lesson plans and activities for teachers in addition to links to user-friendly educational sites, educational resources, blogs and interactive games for students.

“This is a one-stop resource shop for those who want to know everything they can about hunger — and what it will take to curb it,” said Roman, adding that more than 25,000 people around the world die each day from hunger and related causes, 14,000 of them children.

A number of educators around the world have contributed to the array of content - including Cape Breton University, Auburn University and 4-H Alabama. Students are encouraged to take action in their local communities through awareness-raising activities, and ideas on how to do this are offered.

Among other youth outreach tools already developed by WFP are: FreeRice.com - the popular online word game where players help feed the world through a click-based game, while improving their vocabulary.  Food-force.com, now in 16 languages, continues to be a popular, fun video game which teaches children about the multitude of challenges of delivering life-saving food in a major humanitarian crisis.

Through these initiatives, WFP aims to engage and motivate young people around the world to take action in the fight against hunger at a grassroots level. A prime example of this engagement is the WFP-supported “Universities Fighting World Hunger” — a coalition of 87 universities across the United States, which encourages students to get involved in hunger awareness-raising activities and on-the-ground activism.

In the UK, WFP recently teamed up with the UK School Food Trust to launch The Really Good School Dinner campaign, raising over GBP 11,000 for WFP School Feeding Programs.  Over 550 schools participated resulting in more than 400,000 school children pledging to empty their plate to fill the plate of a child in the developing world.

For more information, please visit:  http://www.wfp.org/students-and-teachers.

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and the UN’s frontline agency for hunger solutions. In 2009, WFP aims to feed around 100 million people in 77 countries.

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This is something we can all get behind, can’t we?