Why you can only solve a food crisis by targeting those starving most.
Say you're an aid worker toiling in an area that's been devastated by an overwhelming calamity -- a war-torn conflict zone, a famine-stricken village, or a crowded refugee camp. You have a finite amount of emergency food and see far too many outstretched hands. The kids around you are all much too short and scrawny for their ages, and most seem sickly and under-fed. What's more, many of the youngsters show sure signs of acute malnutrition -- they literally are skin and bones.
Who do you feed first?
In this type of situation, aid groups might be tempted to spread out the food supplies to as many needy children as possible, giving each a small amount until there's nothing left. But according to a new study out of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the University of Bergen in Norway, relief workers should instead give as much emergency food as possible to only those children who are in the greatest danger of dying. The rest should get nothing.
According to the authors, this "all-or-nothing" approach will actually save more lives in the long run.