Cindy Kaplan

Ashoka Fellow
Portland, United States
Fellow Since 2013
My Work: improving the nutritional outcomes of children without permanent families

Check out this video of Cindy Kaplan's work:


Related TopicsChildren & Youth, Child care, Child protection, Health & Fitness, Disability, Nutrition


This profile was prepared when Cindy Kaplan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Across the globe, young children are entering orphanages at a severe disadvantage, having been malnourished in utero and without the benefit of early breastfeeding. Sadly, their nutritional intake once in institutionalized care typically continues to be grossly insufficient for children’s brains and bodies to develop normally, particularly given that the nutritional needs of children change when they are in high-stress environments.

Cindy co-founded the SPOON Foundation in 2007 as the first organization worldwide to study, create awareness of, and address the exceptional nutritional needs of children living without permanent parental care. The impetus behind Cindy’s work came after adopting her first son, Jadyn, from Kazakhstan. Jadyn was severally underweight and did not have the strength to lift his own head. She was shocked at the prevalence of malnutrition in orphanages. Even more astounding was the fact that no organization, whether in Kazakhstan or globally, seemed to be paying serious attention to this issue.

Starting in Kazakhstan—and poised to launch in Tajikistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Haiti, and China—Cindy is transforming feeding practices and nutrition protocols in orphanages. She is changing the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of orphanage workers by equipping them to improve the nutritional outcomes of the children in their care. In this sense, she is helping redefine the roles of caregivers. Where they once saw themselves responsible for ensuring that orphans survive, they now understand and are fully equipped to help them thrive through better nutrition and feeding practices during their first few years of life. Cindy is also the first to have developed nutrition education resources for parents of adoptive children through, as well as training programs for foster families in the US and internationally.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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