May 28th is World Hunger Day, founded by the Hunger Project to put the spotlight on what the UN World Food Programme calls “the world’s most solvable problem”. Over 350 million children worldwide face food insecurity and chronic hunger, and we’re teaming up with cuddle+kind, a brand on a mission to end childhood hunger.
Jen and Derek Woodgate started cuddle+kind after watching a documentary about childhood hunger. As parents of three young children, they were devastated to learn that 66 million primary-school aged children attend classes hungry every day. With a background in health, they knew that nutrition plays a key role in a child’s development: children who receive proper nutrition are better able to fight disease, succeed in school, and more equipped to break the cycle of poverty.
After learning how hunger affects so many children around the world, the Woodgates were inspired to start a company whose purpose is to help improve the lives of children and to make a difference, with a business model that would create a sustainable stream of giving without relying on donations.
They developed a line of hand-knit dolls that would give meals with every purchase, and set a big goal: to donate one million meals per year. In order to achieve this dream, cuddle+kind partnered with several respected humanitarian organizations to ensure that these meals would be distributed where they were needed most. Many of the organizations that they partnered with focus on school meal programs, which give children the fuel they need to learn and develop cognitively. Additionally, statistics show that girls and young women are disproportionately affected by hunger, and are less likely to attend school. School meal programs provide an incentive for girls to attend school, giving them the opportunity to receive an education they might not otherwise get.
Armed with their convictions and their original collection of nine adorable, hand-knit dolls, Jen and Derek started a crowdfunding campaign to jumpstart their journey. To their joyful surprise, their message resonated with so many people and cuddle+kind reached their funding goal in just one day! Since launching in 2015, over 27 million meals have been provided to children in need in 63 countries around the world.
In 2018, The Woodgate family was invited by one of their Giving Partners to travel to Kenya to see firsthand the impact that cuddle+kind was making in the lives of children. It was deeply moving to meet so many of the bright, kind students in these remote villages of the Maasai Mara region, where more than 11,000 children receive school meals provided by cuddle+kind.
School meals are not the only way that cuddle+kind is supporting these communities in fighting hunger - it’s important to help establish self-sustaining solutions in areas where hunger is greatest. With a difficult climate and frequent droughts, farmers in Kenya often suffer from poor crop yields, which creates food insecurity for rural families.
To combat these barriers, cuddle+kind helps fund Oleleshwa Farm, a facility that focuses on the long-term goals of ending world hunger. Oleleshwa is a 60-acre working farm that provides fresh produce for the schools and communities in the Maasai Mara, and just as importantly, serves as an educational center.
Here, students can learn about modern agriculture and farming practices that will give them the tools to continue on a journey towards sustainable food production in the face of a challenging environment and changing climate. They benefit from 24 greenhouses, a diverse range of plants and fruit trees that provide healthy produce, and a pollinator garden that supports the growth of crops.
The mission to help feed children drives every decision at cuddle+kind, but Jen and Derek’s commitment to giving back extends even further. From the start, they were determined that cuddle+kind would be built on their deeply-held values of kindness and fairness. They chose to have their dolls handmade by incredible artisan knitters in Peru, where there is a rich history and culture of knitting that is passed down through generations. This partnership gives rural working mothers access to flexible hours and fair pay for their work. Over 1,000 artisan knitters have been empowered to care for their families, plan for their futures and for many, it brings meaningful change to their lives.
This World Hunger Day, we’re humbled to reflect on the ways we can make a difference in even the smallest ways. When you buy a handmade, heirloom-quality cuddle+kind doll from Modern Nursery, you’re getting so much more than a beautiful gift for a special little one: you’re making a tangible difference in the life of a child and supporting ethical business practices that empower women.