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Feed the 80,000: Group hungry to help malnourished Mormon kids

First Published      Last Updated Oct 04 2013 01:11 pm

At least 80,000 Mormon children across the globe are malnourished, according to LDS physician Bradley Walker, but he believes their deprivations could be easily and not-too-expensively eliminated.

Walker served as a Mormon missionary in Ecuador 1980 and returned to the South American nation as a Brigham Young University student three years later to find rampant malnutrition among the Latter-day Saints there.

Walker saw a woman he had baptized as an LDS missionary now coughing up blood. Her tuberculosis could be cured with a $200 treatment, but she couldn't afford it. Walker, who had spent four times that much on his airfare, considered giving her the money, but didn't. Three years later, she died.

Today, Walker is a public health physician in Las Vegas and has launched a large-scale effort known as the Liahona Children's Foundation.

All it would take are vitamin supplements costing only $5 million a year to wipe out malnutrition among LDS children, says Polly Sheffield, Walker's sister who lives in Lindon and also has a degree in public health.

The group has set up programs in Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Cambodia to supply nutritional supplements to children ages 6 months through 5 years. Local staffers provide 180 calories per day for children younger than 12 months and 300 calories per day to children 12 months and older.

"Simple and inexpensive interventions can change these children's lives and give them opportunities for proper growth and development," Liahona reports, "and increased opportunities for education and meaningful employment."

Liahona representatives are in Utah until Oct. 9, meeting in small groups to discuss projects such as "Adopt-a-Stake" in which Mormon congregations can take on the nutritional needs of fellow Latter-day Saints in Third World countries.

"Taking care of malnutrition is the most important thing we can do in promoting self-reliance," says Sheffield, Liahona's co-founder and current president. "Children who don't eat when they are young, don't develop their full potential. If you feed them, you can change generations."

For more information, go to www.LiahonaChildren.org.

Peggy Fletcher Stack