Barbara Bush organization fights food insecurity in Newark

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 12, 2014

Barbara Bush talked about the fight against food insecurity through her organization, the Global Health Corps.

 

NEWARK — Three years ago Kristy Law was on a trip to Cambodia when she said "a light bulb went off."

After befriending a Cambodian driver who could not afford to attend college, the Australian resident realized just how much geography can determine life opportunities.

"He could have been born in Australia and I could have born in Cambodia," the 26-year-old said during an interview.

Law was inspired to pursue a career in global public health. Now, she is one of a handful of young workers working in Newark through the Global Health Corps, a non-profit organization founded by first lady Laura Bush's daughter Barbara Bush.

The program partners will host organizations to place young professionals in year-long positions where they work on issues of public health. Fellows are placed in countries across the world, including the United States.

The United States faces an epidemic of "hidden hunger" and food insecurity Global Health Corps organizers said today during a press conference at the Covenant House in Newark.

"Malnutrition is a problem here," Bush said. "It's the same challenge here. It just looks really different."

If kids don't get proper nutrition during their first three years of life they can face immense challenges when they get older, said Bush.

"Your brain doesn't grow the way it needs to and you can't catch up," she said.

DSM North America president Hugh Welsh said many people face immense challenges to getting the nutrition they need including access to quality food stores, limited income and time.

"It's simply not convenient," he said. " We have to have to have a conversation about alternatives."

Four fellows work with two non-profit organizations in Newark, though Global Health Corps is looking for more partner organizations in the city.

Law is working with the Boys and Girls Club, where she supervises a program that feeds kids after school. The Club recently installed a kitchen so it can offer hot meals, and plans to open a farmers market, Law said.

Hunger in the United States is an invisible but significant problem, Law said.

"I've seen kids come into the program not having eaten anything all day," she said.

Tilinao Thyangathyanga, 30, is working with the Covenant House, where she is a health counselor to the youth who use the House's services. Thyangathyanga works to get the kids a physical and a TB test through a mobile health clinic.

She also helps them apply for medicaid, and advises them on healthy lifestyle choices.

"It's about addressing the whole person," she said.

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