As the Director of Nutrition Research and Innovation at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Easton resident Jeanette Bailey has dedicated herself to fighting and preventing malnutrition around the world.
From a young age Bailey was interested in how people in other parts of the world lived and was eager to learn more about the challenges they face.
“Discovering that there were children out there that were hungry was something that was not okay to me,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s education started with her focus on International Relations in college at Tufts University. She soon realized that she wanted to spend time out in the field gathering first-hand experience by engaging with people on the ground in the communities around the world where they actually live. She went on to work with the global NGO Action Against Hunger, which quickly made her realize that the trifecta of food, water, and hygiene were the essential ingredients for human survival.
“When people don’t have that, those are violations of human rights,” said Bailey, who has a doctorate in nutrition from the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her graduate research focused on developing a simplified, combined protocol for the treatment of acute malnutrition in children under age five. Bailey has also received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the political and economic drivers that determine what people eat and why.
“Today there are more than 50 million children under age five that have what we call acute malnutrition,” Bailey said. She works full-time with the IRC to address this and related global human rights issues.
Although Bailey’s international human rights work has brought her to several continents, including Asia, Africa, and South America, she has also become involved with local activist groups that address important regional and national issues.
“Though I spend most of my time on the macro cause and working on global hunger, the micro cause here in Easton is where I’d like to pour more attention to in the near future,” she said.
Toward that end, Bailey’s been fighting for children to have a better future through her volunteer work with a local chapter of Moms Demand Action, which is a national movement that started in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy to advocate for stronger gun laws.
“Sadly, no community is safe from gun violence,” Bailey said. “We saw this at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown just one town over from us, so I have no allusions that we are somehow safer and more protected from gun violence, and it breaks my heart that I don’t feel my children are totally safe sending them to school every day. That is not the way we should be living in this country, that our children are not safe at school,” Bailey said.
There are now over twenty local residents active in the Easton group. Bailey and her colleagues hope to work with the Easton police department, local leaders, as well as with nonpartisan groups to improve school safety.
Bailey said that she wants to raise awareness about the issue of gun safety and that it starts with simple things like asking if a family owns guns before sending your child to their home for a play date.
“I don’t think the vast majority of parents think to ask that question when they send their child to a play date,” Bailey said. “So it’s raising awareness around safe storage, … [and] working with the community on ways that we can do that on a bigger-picture level.
”I wanted to focus on the hyperlocal here in Easton,” Bailey said. “I have two young children and I don’t want to be scared sending them to school. We work on priorities that we can align on here as a community to just improve gun violence protection.”
To learn about Moms Demand Action visit their website here.