Why do some countries remain poor, despite the best efforts of governments and development experts?

“It’s because their children are getting off to a lousy start,” says Roger Thurow, a journalist and senior fellow at the Chicago Council. I spoke with Thurow about his new book, The First 1,000 Days, which makes the case that improving early childhood nutrition is the missing key to prosperity. It’s a simple idea with big promise for the poor and for the planet.

In a recent interview, we talked about how a shaky nutritional foundation is not only bad for children, but bad for everyone, and ruinous for the environment. Our interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.gn_1000days_cover_thurow_197x299

Q. What are the 1,000 days, and why do they matter?

A. The 1,000 days are the time from when a woman becomes pregnant to the second birthday of the child. It’s the time where the foundation is laid for strong physical growth, for development of the brain, and for development of the immune system. The key to all that is good nutrition.