Meals that nourish dreams: Maria Ana’s Story

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

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As a result of the global pandemic, the World Bank predicts from 110-150 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2021. Another 270 million people will require food assistance—almost double the need in 2019. Worse, the World Food Program warns that widespread hunger is looming in several countries in crisis.

As missionary disciples, we are called to respond to the urgent needs of those who face hunger and malnutrition and to address the root causes of this global crisis.

Hunger for Education

Maria Ana, 16, dreams of becoming a nurse in her community of El Pinal—a remote village in Honduras, where she lives with her parents and four younger siblings. Every morning, she walks the long dirt trail to school with her two brothers, Marco and Denis. Maria Ana’s father, Cristobal, grows corn and malanga—a root vegetable like potatoes. But the quantities that his hard labor produces are not enough for the entire family, even less for selling. And Maria Ana, aware of her family’s situation, is thankful for her education because she knows that hunger prevents students in rural Honduras from attending school.


María Ana Gómez Pérez, 16, is a student from José Suazo Córdova School in Intibucá, Honduras. Her teachers describe her as a good student who wants to keep studying to become a nurse. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS


Malnutrition causes children to lack the energy to focus and learn. But the people of El Pinal are helping to address this problem. Every day, parents volunteer to prepare lunch and a snack for students with vegetables donated by local families, and oil, rice and beans provided by Catholic Relief Services through the Food for Education program. Thanks to the meals they receive at school, students don’t go hungry, which means they can concentrate in the classroom and have more energy to play and do chores at home. They even bring containers to take leftover food to share with their parents and siblings.

A Hopeful Future

By having his children go to classes, Cristobal knows the lunches they get will help them stay healthy to pursue their dreams. And Maria Ana is doing her part too, by learning as much as she can from her teachers.

“Our [science] teacher has taught us the importance of getting good nutrition to be healthy, do well in school and be able to achieve anything we want,” she shares excitedly.

Help ensure children in Maria Ana's village and around the world have a bright future.

María Ana eats her meal provided by the CRS Food For Education program. The program has helped her and her brothers get a meal while improving their family’s economic health. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS


In addition to the meals, CRS provides education on nutrition, including how to incorporate other food items when variety is scarcer. For instance, Maria Ana learned that, “During the dry season, we can always make some patties out of malanga, which has many good things like potassium and iron, and provides a lot of other nutrients.”

Knowledge plays an important role as the dry seasons become longer and the variety of food is scarce. Continuous change in weather patterns can devastate people living in rural communities and is among the main root causes of hunger and poverty.


3 things you can do to fight the global hunger crisis

As Christians, we have a responsibility to continue empowering children like Maria Ana and to take actions that change the systems and structures that cause worldwide hunger and malnutrition.

1. Learn more

You can lead the way to prevent poverty and end hunger! Learn more about our Lead the Way on Hunger Campaign and find tools and resources to get involved.

2. Pray for the hungry

Pray and reflect on the global hunger crisis amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic with this 10-minute online retreat.

3. Take Action

Matthew’s Gospel invites us to remember that we are responsible for helping all our sisters and brothers, even those who are strangers to us. When we do this, we care for Christ “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”
– Matthew 25: 35

We need prophetic voices—voices like yours—who have encountered Christ in the face of the poor and seek to lead the way to a world where no one is hungry and all people thrive.