Led by Tiskilwa woman, FARM STEW works to improve nutrition, sanitation for children’s first 1,000 days of life
TISKILWA — From her home in Tiskilwa, Joy Kauffman is leading a powerful nonprofit organization based in Africa that’s teaching the world’s poorest and most hungry families recipes for an abundant life.
FARM STEW International educates Africans on how to grow and prepare nutritionally dense food, provide clean water, keep tidy homes, and build strong community ties.
Kauffman founded the organization three years ago.
FARM STEW is an acronym that stands for Farming, Attitude, Rest, Meals, Sanitation, Temperance, Enterprise and Water, which are all ingredients to a recipe that leads to health and well-being in Kauffman’s program.
Hunger is a severe issue all over Africa, especially among children. In one month alone in 2016, 300 children died in the eastern Ugandan town of Namutumba from malnutrition.
The issue is so critical that 34 percent of children in eastern Africa face lifelong challenges intellectually and physically, according to Kauffman.
“That’s more than a third of their children,” she said.
The top priority of FARM STEW has been to dig into the root of the hunger issue and focus on what can be done to improve the nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which is from conception to two years old.
“That’s the most critical time for nutrition and brain development,” Kauffman said. “If you can impact kids in that time period, you can make a difference for their entire life.”
To help reach those young kids, families are being equipped with the skills and tools needed to overcome the tough obstacles that create food scarcity.
“It’s all about creating their own work ethic, their own capacity, their own skills to feed their own family,” Kauffman said.
FARM STEW has trained more than 34,000 people in villages, schools, mosques, orphanages and churches. Those trained are then able to spread the wealth as they share recipes and techniques learned through the program.
The work that’s come out of FARM STEW has helped to develop small businesses for farmers interested in selling agriculture products. It’s increased food availability, particularly soybeans, maize, fruits and vegetables.
It’s also improved means of sanitation, especially for young women. Last year, 1,000 young girls were provided menstrual hygiene kits, which was a huge step in improving the student dropout rate of those who felt ashamed of the inability to protect their periods.
Kauffman said it’s the mom in her that drives her passion for this kind of work. Her interest in hunger and malnutrition stems back to when she was a teenager on a mission trip in Mexico. There she got her first exposure to extreme poverty and hunger.
In college, Kauffman decided to study the subject further and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition and foods with a concentration in international development from Virginia Tech. Following her undergraduate studies, she earned a master’s degree in international public health from John Hopkins University in Boston.
Throughout her 20s, she did international development work in Brazil, Romania and Nicaragua, before she got married and settled down in Tiskilwa, where she and her husband raised their family.
Just when Kauffman figured her days of contributing to international development work were over, she got involved in an organization that worked to teach developing counties how to use agriculture as a means of development.
“It’s something I’ve always been very passionate about, because nutrition is obviously best achieved by the food you can grow,” she said.
Her work with the organization eventually inspired the ideas she grew for FARM STEW.
In FARM STEW’s first year, she self-funded her mission and started with only five trainers who went out to communities to teach her faith-based curriculum.
Not knowing what to expect, Kauffman was blown away from the response from rural villages. She heard testimonies of improved diet, health and livelihood abound. So since then, Kauffman has been dedicated to continuing the mission. The organization is governed by an eight-member board of directors, who are located all over the United States.
FARM STEW currently mobilizes 18 trainers in Africa who work in teams. Two teams are located in Uganda, one team works in Zimbabwe, and the other in refugee camps located in the northern Uganda/southern Sudan area.
FARM STEW International operates on a $187,000 annual budget, which is made up of donations and small grants.
Donations are always welcome to help continue the work of FARM STEW. Those interested in contributing can donate $15 to help start a family garden; $37 sponsors a hands-on class for a village; and $1,000 a year for three years can help transform a village.
To learn more or to donate, visit FARMSTEW.org.