Christina Aguilera Speaks Up for Childhood Hunger
The Grammy Award-winning pop star reveals how her past shaped her passion.
When Christina Aguilera let the genie out of the bottle, she introduced the world to an extraordinary sound. Now she's the voice of a generation -- and for a good cause. The ambassador for the U.N. World Food Programme and mom of two speaks out about why children should never go hungry. She also opens up about domestic abuse and how she found strength in song.
The 35-year-old singer-songwriter doesn't just use her outsize talent to project lyrics or to coach hopefuls on The Voice, NBC's Emmy-winning singing competition. She also fires up her vocal cords to inspire others to get involved with good causes, like stamping out world hunger.
As spokeswoman for Yum! Brands World Hunger Relief and ambassador against hunger for the World Food Programme (WFP), Aguilera makes public service announcements, urges people to be part of the solution -- donate just $1 to WFP and you'll feed four children -- and visits countries like Haiti, Ecuador, and Rwanda to help deliver food to women and children.
Trekking to remote areas of developing countries can be gut-wrenching, Aguilera says. "In the refugee camps in particular, the stories that you hear -- the escapes and the children that sometimes get left behind. In some of these remote places, women have multiple children and no means to feed them. I've even seen cases where they have to decide which one goes hungry. That's just not a way that anybody should live."
For the mother of two -- her son Max Bratman is 8, daughter Summer Rain Rutler is 1 -- seeing women and children struggle strikes a nerve. "We worry about our children having good opportunities at school, we worry about making sure they're passionate in life, that they have a fire and have goals for themselves. One of the last things we think about is, 'Where is their next meal coming from?'" Aguilera says.
Nearly 800 million people struggle with hunger every day. Many are children. Without proper nutrition, a child is more likely to have poor health and problems with brain development.
"As adults, they're at a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease," says Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, MD, an executive medical director at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. The stress of being hungry can lead to anxiety and depression. "There's even some hint that people who have food insecurity have a higher risk of suicide," Schwarzenberg says.
Aguilera believes world hunger is a solvable problem. So does WFP. It's striving for zero global hunger by 2030. "Two-hundred million people across the world have been lifted out of hunger," says Ertharin Cousin, WFP's executive director. Zero hunger is absolutely achievable, she says, but requires more momentum. (You can join the effort by visiting HungertoHope.com or texting "WHR" to 90999.)