(UN News Centre) 5 September 2014 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Rugby Board (IRB) today launched an ambitious push to raise funds and awareness as part of their Tackle Hunger partnership at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

According to a WFP statement, the focus of the drive in the run-up to the world’s third-largest sporting event, which kicks off on September 18, 2015 will be a “Million Meal Challenge”. The goal is to raise funds for WFP to provide meals to school children in developing countries.

“There is a powerful connection between good nutrition and sporting excellence and as the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, WFP is instrumental in ensuring that young children get the food they need to reach their full physical and intellectual potential,” said WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin in a statement.

The Rugby World Cup Tackle Hunger partnership has been hugely successful in raising awareness and support of WFP’s work feeding the world’s hungry. And with England 2015 set to be the biggest Rugby World Cup to date, fans are digging deep to support the Million Meal Challenge.

“From the armchair to the stadia, we are calling on fans to join us in supporting the Million Meal Challenge to help nourish the bodies and minds of those who face a daily challenge of malnutrition and starvation,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

More than $21,000 has already been raised by voluntary online donations through the English Rugby Community ticket sales phase, and with global public ticket sales set to launch on September 12, the Rugby family is set to get behind the campaign.

Rugby World Cup 2015 is set to be a global celebration of Rugby and its character-building values with more than 2.3 million fans expected to attend the 48-match, six-week showcase. As at every Rugby World Cup since 2003, the Tackle Hunger partnership will feature prominently throughout the tournament across all media.

Now in its eleventh year, the Tackle Hunger partnership between WFP and the IRB was launched at Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia and featured at France 2007 and New Zealand 2011 as well as Rugby World Cup Sevens, Women’s Rugby World Cup and the IRB Junior World Championship.

Shortly after the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the IRB organised an exhibition match in London between players from northern and southern hemisphere teams that raised more than $3 million for WFP.