Globally, more than 1 billion adolescent girls and women suffer from malnutrition. Having two daughters of my own, this hits close to home in keeping optimal nutrition top of mind.

The effects of malnutrition can be perpetual, passed down from generation to generation, creating a cycle of chronic hunger that impacts people and the communities where they live in every country around the world. It’s a reality we must face and one where there are solutions that can be presented for great impact.

This year, The Hunger Project is spotlighting the importance of women in food security as we mark World Hunger Day on May 28. By investing in good nutrition for women and children, we can help create a world where we all thrive.

U.S. soybean farmers and the agricultural community have long been committed to advancing food security by improving access to nutritious food and helping to address other socioeconomic factors that are often barriers to proper nutrition. While much work remains, we’ve engaged in partnerships to make important progress around the world and across the food value chain in recent years.

First and foremost, our farmers provide a reliable supply of high-quality, sustainably-produced soy to customers around the world. Soy provides the complete protein essential to a healthy diet, both directly as food for people and indirectly as feed for animals as your protein’s protein, whether it be chicken, eggs, pork and fish. With increased local protein sources, communities have improved access to food, which positively impacts the health and socioeconomic status of individuals and families. 

But our commitment to supporting local communities goes well beyond the soy we produce. The essence of this work reminds me of an old Chinese proverb – “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Untitled-design-(66).pngA billboard promoting Sustainable U.S. Soy in Seoul, featuring Indiana farmer and United Soybean Board Director Jim Douglas.

Through the soy checkoff, we invest in multiple programs to help poultry, livestock and fish farmers in developing countries maximize their efficiency, open new markets and adopt the latest sustainable practices. These efforts benefit all parties, as they improve food security and strengthen local businesses in communities around the world, they also open new market opportunities for U.S. Soy.

Many of these programs are backed by the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), which is supported by our half-million U.S. soybean farmers. WISHH opens up markets out in the world and provides human nutrition as a starting point alongside building agricultural value chains. Expanding these relationships is creating the soybean consumer of tomorrow. 

WISHH works with entrepreneurs in developing markets to help them establish and grow their businesses, strengthening food security and communities along the way. A great example of this work is WISHH’s Aqua Internship Program, where students in Sub-Saharan Africa learn the latest techniques in aquaculture (or “fish farming”). It also teaches leadership skills not only to help them create successful businesses through hands-on capacity building but increases preference for U.S. Soy as a feed ingredient for the fish.  

Soy Excellence Centers are another great example of knowledge transfer and mentorship to drive local economic growth. Established by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, SECs cover the Americas, Asia, Middle East, North Africa and, Sub-Saharan Africa. These centers serve as hubs to share best practices in protein production using soy, with customized areas of focus based on regional needs and priorities. 

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U.S. soybean farmers share a sense of pride in supporting initiatives that aim directly to reduce hunger around the world. One example is Edesia Nutrition that produces specialized foods designed to support recovery from various stages of malnutrition. Their “Plumpy’Nut” bars are filled with nutrition – including protein-packed soy – that can rehabilitate a malnourished person in a few weeks’ time.

Clearly, much more work needs to be done to alleviate hunger for women and children around the world. U.S. Soy farmers will continue to seek opportunities to advance food security, both through the products they supply and the important educational programs they support, to help food producers, their families, and communities thrive. We know that everyone wins when we help to develop strong businesses that are focused on global food security.

This work is just one piece of a complex and critically important challenge, and it’s important to remember that food security and national security are inextricably linked. This work demonstrates that everyone can benefit when we all focus on breaking down barriers to help our global society thrive.

A lifelong passion for agriculture, Lucas Lentsch is CEO of United Soybean Board.