One billion people in the world are hungry. That’s right, 1,000,000,000. For most, the figure is so large it simply numbs the mind. It appears vague and inaccurate. It strikes them as sensationalism or blatant propaganda. For most, the figure is often and easily dismissed.
For those one billion individuals however, the consequences of dismissal are enormous and range from diminished intellectual development of children to reduced economic productivity of communities and nations. Those most affected are very young, often rural, very often women and typically marginalized in society. They lack the energy to organize for themselves. They lack the voice to call for change or the power to mandate it.
Here’s the hard truth — one billion hungry people are relying on people like you and me to reach out and support efforts to address their most basic need for food. I for one am eager to help. I’m passionate about the issue and I feel incredibly proud that I work for an organization that is both willing and capable of making a real difference.
At PepsiCo we believe in “Performance with Purpose” – where improved health and nutrition is seen as a key to addressing the human dimension of purpose. As an operating philosophy, Performance with Purpose enables us to develop programs that make a real difference in the world, while at the same time delivering results for the business.
One such program is Asha. Sanskrit for “hope,” Asha is PepsiCo’s multi-country effort to address the nutrition needs of the world’s poorest. Through the Asha program colleagues from across the company are exploring ways in which PepsiCo can deliver the greatest impact on global hunger. They’re donating their time and expertise in areas such as research, marketing, finance, procurement and distribution to find solutions for those in need in Dallas, the Nigerian countryside, Mumbai and everywhere in between.
Through the Asha program we’ve seen the start of serious debate about the need for new business models that will support such initiatives. We keep finding examples of product or processing research developed for high-end markets that have applications for the poorest consumers. For example, work on protein snacks for boomers could address a protein lack in many of the urban poor and better ways of fortifying iron could address one of the most intractable deficiencies we face.
We keep finding amazing partners in the communities and countries we seek to work who are pushing us to do more – these extend from Naandi in India who provide hundreds of thousands of meals to school kids; to the nutrition department of the South African government; and global players like GAIN and Synergos which actively work to provide real nutrition solutions.
Will we succeed in changing the face of global hunger? It is way too early to be certain. What my colleagues and I at PepsiCo are certain about it simple – when passions and expertise are channeled to address real problems, absolutely anything is possible.