LONDON, United Kingdom — “Any time I see the beneficiaries, I see myself in them.” This statement captures the motivation and the spirit behind the establishment of the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, a nonprofit organization by its founder and chief executive, Michael Sunbola, a 39-year-old lawyer. Sunbola recently spoke with The Borgen Project on the vision and mission of the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, the impact it has made, the beneficiaries, the expanding operations, the volunteers and the future.
Urbanization and Food Insecurity
Lagos is a city that sits on a narrow strip of land on the southernmost and western coast of Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s most populated, as well as the commercial city. The growing urbanization of Lagos attributes mainly to migration from rural areas due to existing pull factors like economic opportunities and better social amenities. There might also be natural population growth due to an increase in birth rates. The CIA Factbook puts the current population of Lagos at 15.9 million.
The CIA Factbook predicts that by August 2023, about 25.7 million people would be facing food insecurity. The effect of this situation is more severe in the urban areas like Lagos which receive their food supplies from the rural areas. Unfortunately, rural areas are now facing low or negative productivity as a result of conflicts, extreme weather conditions, inflation and disruption in the global food chain.
In the midst of this harsh reality, Sunbola describes a life of struggle and survival in the metropolis of Lagos. He comes from a family of seven, comprising five children, a father and a mother. The parents’ only income was from odd jobs by the father and food vending by the mother. Daily survival was very tough and young Michael describes a life that did not give room to think of education. Sunbola relives memories of other children like him who died from malnutrition. He survived by hawking odds and bits on the streets of Lagos, uncertain of the next meal, but never giving up. Alongside his siblings, he attended publicly-funded primary and secondary schools. He personally experienced poverty and hunger as well as witnessed others going through the same experience.
His determination to survive saw him through the University of Lagos where he read Law and got inducted into law practice in Nigeria. At still a relatively young age, Sunbola recounted how he felt unfulfilled in spite of doing well in his law practice.
This search for fulfillment strangely coincided with a traumatic experience involving his wife to propel them to launch the program to address hunger and poverty in their environment. Thus, the Lagos Food Bank Initiative began its journey. According to its website, its vision includes “fighting malnutrition and hunger, through targeted programs that seek to improve the nutrition/food intake of pregnant women and their infants; students in public primary and secondary schools and the youths in the underserved communities.”
The Lagos Food Bank Initiative reaches out to its beneficiaries through a multichannel programs approach. The programs are eight and they are as follows:
- TEFAP – Temporary Food Assistance Program focuses on providing immediate food, nutrition and relief to families in low-cost communities in Lagos and its environs.
- Food Bank Network – Distributes food to individuals through a network of local food bank partners and credible nonprofit organizations across Nigeria.
- EDUFOOD – It is a program that seeks to improve the nutritional status and health of food-insecure students.
- NIDS – Nutrition Intervention for Diabetes Self-management is for indigent adults living with diabetes.
- NUMEPLAN – Nutritional Meal Plan Intervention for vulnerable mothers and children seeks to improve nutrition for these groups of persons.
- Job Placement Program – The program focuses on ensuring that the beneficiaries of LFBI get jobs to enable them to become self-reliant and contribute to economic growth.
- Family Farming Program – This encourages families to engage in cottage farming around their homes to supply food items like vegetables, snails and poultry.
- Cloth Banking Nigeria (CBN) – Through this program, the organization collects donated clothing items in vast quantities and distributes them to persons facing clothing poverty.
According to Sunbola, the Lagos Food Bank Initiative has reached more than 2.4 million people scattered over 170 communities and is still expanding. The eight programs above are ongoing and have more than 24,000 volunteers working with the organization. Furthermore, the outfit has expended more than $1 million on its various programs.
Sunbola explained the role of many corporate partners and individual donors. He said that many corporate organizations are eager to be part of the organization’s work both as charity work and as well as enabling them to fulfill their corporate social responsibility. He is also quite happy that the corporate organizations have bought into the vision of the organization and boosted its operations. Sunbola doesn’t hide his excitement and hopes that more individuals and organizations will get into the program of reducing poverty and hunger around the world. He is eager to see a reduction in the levels of poverty that he personally suffered and witnessed and which unfortunately seems to be increasing at the moment.
Lagos Food Bank Initiative has many partners and some of them include Bloomberg, Dangote, Africa Port Services, Nivea, Nestle, Global Food Banking Network, Access Bank, Beiersdorf, Oando, DHL, Kellogg’s, Microsoft and many more.
The increasing levels of food insecurity around the world are distressing. This underscores the need for an increase in the number of heroic efforts by individuals like Sunbola and the supporting partners. Governments are becoming increasingly less able to prevent everyone from escaping through the safety net.
– Friday Okai : https://www.borgenmagazine.com/lagos-food-bank-initiative/