A Kalamazoo College alumnus is among the volunteers behind a non-government organization that is working to feed the impoverished people of Bangladesh as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have complicated the southern Asia nation’s fight against chronic hunger.
Jesse Steed ’02—a licensed real-estate broker in Northfield, Minnesota—got inspired when Faress Bhuiyan, an economics professor at nearby Carleton College and the founder of Nourish Bangladesh, asked him to get involved with the organization’s work.
“When there’s a need, and I’m personally asked, I tend to say yes,” Steed said. “I think that’s one of the main three pillars of philanthropy. It’s your own causes, the causes of your friends and the other causes that just present themselves at just the right time. This was definitely a friend’s cause, and we had been talking for a couple years about doing something along these lines. I’ve always had a global interest. I’ve never been to Bangladesh before but having lived abroad through K and then right after college, I see a lot of value in the concept of helping people who live outside my community or even outside my country.”
Steed is among the Nourish Bangladesh volunteers who seek donations and vet nonprofits in Bangladesh with the hope of helping worthy organizations provide money and food to people throughout the country. The organization seeks partners who use their funds directly in on-the-ground efforts, spending it efficiently to support under-privileged groups such as low-income households, women-headed households, transgender individuals, flood-affected households, refugees, children and victims of communal violence.
“With COVID, those of us who could work from home all of a sudden had a little more time on our hands to help because we didn’t have to drive anywhere,” Steed said. “Faress pulled together a group of people from around the world, including some students, some former students, some friends, some Bangladeshis to meet online and talk about what we could possibly do.”
World Hunger Day, observed every May 28 since 2011, was created by the Hunger Project to bring awareness to the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who face chronic hunger, making it an excellent day to focus on organizations such as Nourish Bangladesh. According to the Hunger Project, 98 percent of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries, more than 60 percent of the people affected are women, and hunger kills more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Nourish Bangladesh is fighting to reverse those trends by, according to its website, funding nearly 900,000 meals to nearly 45,000 individuals and more than 11,000 households to date.
“I think that consistency over the course of these two years shows that this organization is providing value and that people still want to donate to it,” Steed said. “We have ongoing drives and programs. We’ve raised quite a bit of money and we make a strong impact with the groups we benefit. The thing that I love hearing is that the work we do makes a personal impact or connection. It’s nice to hear some stories from the folks who we help and see that we’ve made a difference in their lives.”