Striking out hunger is an essential long-term investment

Striking out hunger is an essential long-term investment
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Whether I’m on the baseball field or it’s the off season, I am always looking for ways to expand my worldview and give back where it matters.

I recently had the chance to see the fruits of my partnership to strike out poverty in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a special place: a lush, green country filled with lively people, where baseball is a national pastime and “home base” for many of my teammates. But this trip would be different than previous ones on vacation. We came to go to the hard places and see a different reality.

When we arrived in the community of El Mogote where Food for the Hungry (FH) is working, the level of poverty was evident immediately. The houses were extremely crude, there was no running water, no clean water to drink and a lack of food available. The only food that I did see was a black pot with multiple cracks and holes in it cooking beans over some charcoal. 

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That’s not okay. It’s not okay that women and children have to walk five or six hours daily just to fetch water, which is often dirty. It’s not okay that failed crops, natural disasters, and generations of inadequate farming practices are keeping communities from thriving when many rely on abundant harvests to support their families. 

Since becoming a father to our sons, Jackson and Cole, this reality has hit home even harder. I can't imagine them not having clean drinking water and food to eat — let alone think about the impacts of inadequate nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The effects are irreversible: limits in cognitive development, stunted height and weight. The crazy part is that all of it is preventable.

We as global citizens need to advocate on behalf of the 821 million people worldwide experiencing severe food insecurity and malnutrition. 

As an athlete, I can attest to the importance of good nutrition to help me perform my best on the baseball field. Without nourishing food, it’s hard — if not impossible — for individuals to reach their full, God-given potential and thrive. 

Believe it or not, malnutrition is the primary underlying cause of death for children under the age of five, killing more people annually than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS — combined. 

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Yet, there is hope. Every dollar spent on nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child's life can save an average of $45 in social, economic and environmental benefits — and in some cases, even up to $166. 

It’s as simple as some of us saying “yes” to God’s call. From promoting exclusive breastfeeding among new mothers to trainings in cooking nutritious meals with varied dietary diversity and micronutrient intake, these low-cost, behavioral changes that transform the wellbeing of entire communities and generations. 

The stories of kids, coaches and community leaders that I met in the Dominican Republic will serve a reminder of the real impacts of global poverty, whether in our backyard or worldwide. As we reflect on and close out 2019, now is the time to make a difference. The world is witnessing a rise in hunger for the first time since 2007. 

I urge our federal lawmakers to go above and beyond this holiday season — and to think about the immense opportunity we have to steward global goodwill through U.S. foreign assistance and provide real transformation to communities like El Mogote. 

Our collective efforts are needed: Whether that’s joining me in striking out poverty or advocating our national leaders for a robust international affairs budget that scales up life-saving interventions to combat hunger. One thing is clear: It’s an investment that will yield long-term results for years to come.

Nick Ahmed is the shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks, two-time Golden Glove Award winner, and ambassador for Food for the Hungry, an international relief and development organization ending poverty in over 20 countries worldwide.