At Feed the Children, we believe we can create a world in which no child goes to bed hungry. It takes all of us working together: Feed the Children staff, local community organizations, volunteers, donors, state and federal governments, corporate partners… and truck drivers.
Drivers are the backbone of our community events around the country. They transport food and needed supplies to people who need them, when they need them. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, we’re able to serve more than ten million hungry people each year.
It’s the American driver on our nation’s highways and backroads who sees better than anyone that behind every hill, and around every turn, families can be found who are still struggling with poverty and hunger.
That’s why the drivers of FTC Transportation, banner carriers of Feed the Children, proudly deliver the food and supplies that struggling American families so desperately need.
A problem as complex as hunger needs complex solutions. Feed the Children is committed to finding these solutions, with everyone at the table. But we also believe in meeting immediate needs—for food, for supplies, and for hope. Our fleet of drivers helps make this happen.
We invite you to check out our new video that heralds these unsung heroes! Share it with a friend.
Imagine flying on an airplane for the first time, bound for a foreign country you’ve never visited, to give a speech to 7,000 people who speak eight different languages.
Now imagine doing that at the age of twelve.
Last month, twelve-year-old Mercy was selected to represent Honduras and her community at the 4Life International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Foundation 4Life has been a partner with Feed the Children since 2010 and has supported our Food & Nutrition programs in several countries. In addition, Foundation 4Life has adopted two communities to provide everything from school supplies and new classrooms to projects supporting livelihood development.
Mercy’s adventure began on the airplane, her first ever, during which she peered out the window at cities, rivers and even rooftop swimming pools—a very different vantage point from her usual one from a car, bicycle or on foot in her community.
During her layover in Miami, Florida, Mercy experienced firsthand the cultural melting pot of hair and skin color, wardrobe, tattoos and body piercings that exists in the United States—sights and experiences she had only imagined or seen on TV.
Once in Salt Lake City, Utah, the host city for Bring Dreams Home: 4Life International Convention, Mercy was given the royal treatment—a hotel room with a view, meals from restaurants and many exciting adventures. Her favorite experience was seeing penguins, sea otters and other sea creatures at the Living Planet Aquarium. Although she missed the comfortable heat of her native Honduras, she was very excited to feel the fresh snow that fell during her visit and covered the ground like a “white carpet.” Like so many girls her age, she captured the experience with lots of photos and selfies, and she made fast friends with Bea, another teen ambassador who was bringing greetings and thanks to 4Life on behalf of her community in the Philippines.
Heidy Mejia, Regional Communications Specialist in Honduras for Feed the Children, accompanied Mercy to Salt Lake City. In her account of the trip, Heidy wrote, “Seeing Mercy enjoy experiences that many people consider normal—boarding a train, an airplane, an elevator; opening the room of the hotel with a card instead of a key; automatic water faucets, a nice bed, a bathroom with warm water in the mornings; cornflakes with chocolate milk, a good piece of cake—you realize how great these simple pleasures can be when you aren’t used to them.” Heidy also marveled at the ways Mercy and Bea became immediate friends and could communicate with one another despite not speaking a common language.
When it came time for Mercy to speak during the convention, she stood on the stage with Bianca Lisonbee, 4Life Co-Founder and Vice Chairwoman of the Board, and Cynthia Gerlinger, winner of the “At the Heart of it” service award. The theme of the 4Life convention was “Bring Dreams Home,” and Mercy brought that message to life as she thanked the gathering for supporting her community through development projects, education and food:
Good afternoon 4Life! My name is Mercy and I’m from Honduras.
Thanks to your donations, the school in my community has a feeding center, a vegetable garden, a recycle center, new bathrooms, an incinerator and two new classrooms!
There are a lot of children, mothers and families who benefit from the donations that you make to Foundation 4Life.
You are the answers to our prayers. Your donations are the progress of my community.
I dream of becoming a doctor someday and, like you, help other people. Thank you for everything you do… THANK YOU 4LIFE!
“From the moment of her speech, she was an instant celebrity,” wrote Heidy. “People wanted to take pictures with her and talk to her. People gave her a lot of advice, asked her many questions about her experience with Foundation 4Life, and told her to reach for her dreams to help others.”
“All these memories and experiences were possible thanks to the support of Foundation 4Life, the people who donate to the foundation, and Feed the Children,” said Heidy. “People think that they are helping a hungry child with food, but it’s more than that. More than they can imagine.”
It’s been almost two weeks since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and parts of India. Villages were flattened, homes destroyed, and casualties number in the thousands. From the highest peaks of Everest to the most remote villages, the loss is widespread and hard to comprehend. We’ve also seen tales of courage and triumph, as ordinary people come together in extraordinary ways—as babies are carefully pulled from the rubble, precious and alive; as neighbors work with neighbors to meet basic needs for food and shelter. The stories continue to pour in.
Donations are also pouring in—tangible signs of concern and support for our brothers and sisters in Nepal. We’d like to thank you, our donors, who have given generously to assist with relief efforts. Whether it’s a donation of $10 or a corporate gift in the thousands, every dollar is making a difference.
The funds our donors provide for earthquake relief are being used by our implementing partner, World Neighbors, that’s been active in Nepal since 1973. Our international leadership has identified World Neighbors as having the necessary connections and expertise to be a part of lasting recovery and development in the region, and Feed the Children is proud to work with them in this effort.
“When disaster strikes, it takes the help of many to provide relief for those affected,” said Matt Panos, Feed the Children Chief Development Officer. “Here at Feed the Children, we know we could not provide a glimpse of hope in a time of despair without the help of donors and partners.”
Dr. Kate Schecter, President and CEO of World Neighbors, is keeping us informed on progress since the disaster through Srijana Thapa, World Neighbors Regional Director for South Asia. According to the latest update, buildings and homes have been reduced to rubble in many communities where World Neighbors is active. Others have lost roofs or walls and are in states of near-collapse. Some basic forms of aid are beginning to arrive into these communities, but it’s been a slow process and provisions are few. In many places, people are receiving food from local stores on credit, but there is distrust and fear that supplies will soon run short, or stores will stop allowing these purchases. Aftershocks are becoming less frequent, but have measured 4-5 on the Richter scale.
World Neighbors is addressing the immediate need for shelter, medical aid, and clean water within several rural, remote Nepali communities. World Neighbors has procured and distributed tarps, medications, rice, and oil to last for fifteen days. But the work continues, and the rebuilding process will take years.
Nepal is already starting to fade from the headlines, but the recovery and relief effort is far from over—in fact it is only beginning. Thank you to all of our donors who will be part of this effort through your generous gifts.
To give to the Nepal earthquake relief effort, click here.
Editor’s Note: We continue our series posts highlighting some of the people who make up the Feed the Children team. Here is part 2 of an interview with Matt Panos, Feed the Children’s Chief Development Officer. Part 1, “Food and Nutrition First,” can be found here.
In addition to child sponsorship, you oversee fundraising in general. How has social media changed the way organizations approach fundraising and development?
Social media is fast becoming the method of choice for individuals who want to communicate their commitment and raise money for their favorite non-profit organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising, which is where individuals use digital means to recruit friends and family to support a fundraising effort, is now raising more than $750 milliona year for our nation’s charities. Many organizations raise a large percentage of their money through peer-to-peer social media fundraising. The Ice Bucket Challenge by the ALS Association last year is the perfect example of how social media can be used to promote an event and, in the right environment, it can go viral, capture new supporters and motivate people to raise millions of dollars.
How has it changed donor behavior and expectations?
In our case, 85+% of our donors are over 50, so social media has done little to change our donors’ behavior. Most of the older “legacy” donors didn’t get into social media until after they formed their charitable preferences and so have more trust in traditional giving methods. This simply means that most organizations are not yet experiencing big shifts in the giving habits of the donors who provide the most money.
However, many Gen Xers and the Millennials are forming their first impressions about non-profits through social media, so all organizations who are doing events and fundraising (or just “friend-raising”) need to use social media as an aspect of their fundraising programs… or risk being left off the “preferred” list of these younger donors when they get older and have substantial money to give!
What motivates you in this work? Is there a statistic, or a story or situation that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?
I’ve been privileged to see effective non-profit programs and how they work in the lives of the people they serve. I’ve had many memorable experiences here in the US and around the world that keep me excited about raising money and helping people.
Here’s one from early in my career. I was the director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) summer camp as part of my role as District Director for Southwest Florida. This required a week of my time to supervise the managers who actually did the legwork every day in running various aspects of the camp such as food service, children’s activities, and managing volunteers. Each camper had one volunteer counselor assigned to them for the week to support their participation in activities, meals, and so forth.
Each day had a time at the pool, and on the first day, the counselors and campers paired up for a game requiring the campers to be on the shoulders of their counselor. One pretty big camper was paired with a counselor that couldn’t lift him, so it looked like he wouldn’t be able to play with the others. As a fairly big person, I knew I could lift this child, so I jumped in the pool, hoisted him on my shoulders and we joined the game… and won!
Afterward I helped him back into his wheelchair, and he was in tears. He said he’d never had so much fun! I was with this young man at the pool every day that week, and it’s one of my fondest memories. It’s events like these that connect raising money with the work that affects each and every person who benefits. Without the support of generous donors, these activities just aren’t possible.
As a member of the Feed the Children “team,” what’s one hope you have for people who may read this? What’s one action you hope they will take?
A long time ago I heard a story about President Kennedy visiting NASA in the early 1960’s. He had several meetings there and as they entered the building, they had to walk down a long corridor. Way down the corridor was a man with a bucket cleaning the floor and windows. The Secret Service raced ahead of the President to get the man out of the way, but the President asked them to leave him alone. When the President caught up, he asked the man, “What do you do here at NASA?” Without hesitation the man said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon!”
That man at NASA clearly understood NASA’s mission—and that he was part of it. That’s my hope for all of us connected to Feed the Children: each of us understands that every job and every task we do plays a part in achieving our mission: that “one day, no child will go to bed hungry!”
To read more about Feed the Children’s child sponsorship program, click here.
Today in Washington D.C., Feed the Children asked Congress to support multi-sector collaboration. Jonathan Webb, Director, Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testified at a public hearing beginning at 10 a.m. at the Longworth House Office Building. His testimony, “The Role of Nonprofits in Addressing Hunger,” was delivered to the Full Committee on Agriculture as they discussed, “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.” The complete line-up of speakers is here.
Here we offer a summary of his remarks to Congress to keep you informed of Feed the Children’s progress in furthering public-private partnerships to support efforts in identifying, creating and scaling up newer and more effective strategies for ending hunger.
The testimony and recommendations were written by members of our Program Impact Department and Government Relations Department, with input from other Feed the Children staff and are available in their entirety here.
Today I’m in Washington D.C., offering a “call-to-action” testimony asking Congress to change how our country addresses childhood hunger.
As we know, the public sector can’t do it alone—and the nonprofit community can’t do it alone. Public-private partnerships are the true key to decreasing the number of individuals currently relying on the hunger safety net provided by the federal government. We know the current safety net is not enough to end hunger in the US, so we are promoting solutions to ensure that fewer Americans will need that safety net.
We are offering three recommendations to Congress that will foster innovation, collaboration and improved measurement of results and impact in order to decrease the need for the federal safety net, improve food security and nutrition, and make the safety net more cost-effective.
First, we are recommending that Congress establish a Food Security and Nutrition Social Innovation Fund. This fund could be created from the USDA’s existing resources to foster a stronger network of anti-hunger partners and promote the multi-sector collaboration necessary to yield smart, innovative solutions to hunger.
Such a fund will allow us to break down the walls that often exist between various sectors– community leaders, nonprofits, academics and governments—and have prevented us from looking at the big-picture issues that define hunger. Leveraging the skill sets from these constituencies will help us collaborate on creative solutions that go deeper than simply increasing access to direct service. This $370 million fund would help support a formal “community of practice” and innovation grants to help scale-up the most cost-effective program models that can help defeat hunger.
Second, we’re requesting better access to federally funded demonstration projects. Currently, nonprofits are severely limited in how we combine efforts with the federal government, especially with the difficulty in leveraging USDA grants.
Feed the Children is recommending that Congress encourage nonprofits to bid collaboratively for demonstration projects that test new and effective approaches to improving food security and nutrition programs, as well as administering federal nutrition programs. In order to further encourage program innovation among nonprofit organizations, Congress should dedicate increased funding to targeted demonstration projects, and take actions that will permit necessary flexibility in federal nutrition programs.
And third, we recommend federal grant applications from Congress require measurement of results and impact of programs, using standardized food security and nutrition indicators that will help to assess which programs are having the best results. The federal government—in collaboration with its partners—needs to study, measure and replicate success.
We look forward to the results and next steps that emerge from today’s testimony and Feed the Children’s recommendations.
Feed the Children staff pictured in the image above: Kim Baich, Kevin Hagan, Tom Davis, Jonathan Webb, Trevor Moe, and Jayme Cloninger
Editor’s Note: Today we begin a series of posts highlighting some of the people who make up the Feed the Children team. We begin with part 1 of an interview with Matt Panos, Feed the Children’s Chief Development Officer.
Tell us about your background and your role at Feed the Children.
As Chief Development Officer, I oversee all the annual income we receive from individual donors, volunteers, and churches. I also manage our television, radio, direct mail and digital activities, our customer relations, and monthly giving programs, including Feed America’s Children and our Child Sponsorship program.
How did you come to be a part of the organization?
I was recruited in late spring of 2012 by then-acting Chief Development Officer, Chris Cleghorn. The organization needed help with its direct response marketing program and had a goal to evaluate and rebuild our television and radio programs. I was asked to become the permanent Chief Development Officer in September of 2012 and started in the role on October 1st.
Child sponsorship is one of your areas of responsibility. Tell us about that—how it works, and what makes it distinctive from similar programs.
Child sponsorship is still the most compelling way an individual or family can give funds, communicate with a particular child in one of our support countries, and see a tangible difference in that child’s life. Even though our funding model of support is to support the whole community, the sponsor can communicate with one child and see how the child, their family and whole community benefit from their donations to sponsorship.
I’d say Feed the Children’s program is unique because we put food and nutrition first and ensure children get at least one good meal per day. Many other organizations do not include food or daily nutrition in their sponsorship program. Feed the Children understands that a child who is hungry tends to learn poorly and can have developmental disabilities because of the lack of good food and proper nutrition.
What’s one misconception about child sponsorship you’d like to correct?
The hardest message to get across to child sponsors is the money they give doesn’t go directly to their child… and that’s a good thing for the child, their family and the community. Feed the Children does community development programming, meaning we use the money to help the entire community escape poverty.
When we “pool” one sponsor’s money with other sponsors, we can fund a whole school feeding program, for example, or build a water well for the whole community, or provide sanitation so everyone benefits. Some organizations give the funds more directly to one child’s family, which means others in the community may be left out or do poorly. Community development work lifts all children out of poverty, not just the individual, and it’s been proven that a thriving community is much better for each of the individual children.
Of course, there are children all over the world who need support. But is there a region of the world where the need is particularly great at this time?
The World Bank studies tell us that nearly one billion people still live in extreme poverty, meaning they exist on less than $1.25 per day. The industrialization of China and India and poverty abatement programs like those at Feed the Children have cut extreme poverty over the past 30 years from more than 50% of the world’s population down to about 25%.
Unfortunately, in that same period of time, the countries in Africa have had only minor improvements. Most of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa. We have a presence there now, but we want to expand our reach in Africa and improve our community development programming. We’re going to need to raise more private funds, and receive grants from the United States, Canada and the European Union if we’re going to make a difference in Africa in the near term.
You have opportunity to travel extensively in your work. Tell us about a visit you made recently and what you witnessed there.
I was in Kenya this past fall and, like many who have visited, was quite taken by the Abandoned Baby Center. It goes beyond abandoned babies and has numerous children with physical disabilities who live there as well. I’m so proud of Feed the Children’s commitment to all of the children at the Center, and the quality of life made possible by the many donors who have provided support.
To read more about Feed the Children’s child sponsorship program, click here.
“My wife will be the first to tell you, I’ve always been a little insane,” VonCannon says. He’s dreamed of taking on “off the wall races” such as the Black Hills 100, a grueling hundred-mile race in South Dakota in which only 35% finish. But to get there, he says, you need a fifty miler under your belt. So he registered for the North Face Endurance Challenge April 18-19, which runs along the Potomac River near Washington DC on a series of rocky and hilly trails.
VonCannon is not a lifelong runner—he was a self-described “marching band nerd” in school who ran his first race in his 20s when a buddy challenged him to do so. Since that first 5K, he’s done a handful of half marathons, marathons and triathlons. But this is his first fifty-miler, and his first race in about six years. “Before signing up for North Face, I’d try to get out there once a week for maybe three to five miles,” VonCannon says. “I hadn’t run more than ten miles in a long time, until I started training for this.”
VonCannon knew from the start that his race experience should have a greater purpose. “I wanted to do something for a charity. I believe we should be ‘light in the world,’ and back up what we believe with action, not just words.” So VonCannon turned to his employer, hotel chain Concord Hospitality, for suggestions on a worthy cause to support.
Concord has partnered with Feed the Children for six years through its Share Day event. This past year, some 200 hotel employees across the country raised funds to bring Feed the Children’s “truckloads of hope” to the communities in which Concord hotels are located. These trucks are stuffed with care packages containing food and hygiene items, and 235,200 packages were delivered in 2014 alone.
Thomas chose Feed the Children based on this long-standing relationship with Concord. “I cannot say enough about how supportive and amazing Concord has been,” he says. VonCannon has already raised much of his $1000 goal thanks to friends, family and work associates, but he’d love to surpass that goal in the few weeks he has left.
VonCannon works a night shift for Concord 3-4 nights a week. That’s in addition to his other job as a General Manager for a sports bar, a job that has him working six days a week. Still, he says the training’s going well. “This week I worked Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I had to hit the training hard early in the week.” That meant thirteen miles one day, fifteen the next, followed by “easy” four and five mile runs. Because he’s in uncharted territory, he isn’t sure how long these fifty miles will take, but he’d be “ecstatic” to finish in less than ten hours. “I’m not built for speed,” he says, though his 3:50 marathon time finishes put him in respectable company among recreational runners.
In addition to training, VonCannon knows that a race like this is largely mental. “It’s important to keep things in perspective,” he says. “There are people fighting for our country right now; there are hungry children around the world… and I’m running a silly race.”
But VonCannon also realizes that it’s up to each of us to do what we can to make a difference. In addition to his two jobs, VonCannon stays busy with two young children as well as church activities. Still, he says, “I got tired of talking about doing something ‘one day.’ There’s always going to be something to prevent you from doing that thing you really want to do.”
“Some people wait for change… some people work for change.”
“Water is life. Children are the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you Feed the Children for investing in our future generation.” -Josophat
Around the world, more than 780 million people lack ready access to clean, safe water. For some, this means traveling many miles for hours each day to fetch water from a remote well. For the people in one village in Malawi, it meant encountering contaminated water once they got there.
While the village had a deep, machine-dug well not far from the community, for more than ten years this well had no cover. People would throw items into the well. Dirt and sand would blow in. People were getting sick.
“My children were greatly affected with the unclean water,” said Irene, mother of two young children. “I would spend weeks in hospital with my first born son because of diarrhea. It was a sorry situation.” At times the women would resort to drawing water from hand-dug wells, but the effects were worse.
The women of the village also came to see the well as a hazard in their midst. It was harrowing just to stand beside it and peer down into it. Children could easily fall in.
For years the people of the village tried makeshift remedies for the exposed well—wood planks, sheets of iron—but they were no match for the fierce wind and elements.
Things are different today.
Last June, Feed the Children helped install a well cover to enable community access to clean and safe water. It was a true partnership—the community provided bricks, a contractor offered expertise, and Feed the Children furnished materials and coordination. Malawi’s Ministry of Water was also involved, offering technical support.
Today the community is enjoying unlimited access to clean and safe water. More than a hundred families fetch water from this well. The well is located close to the Community Based Child Care Centre (CBCC) which hosts 61 children who are also accessing water from the same well. Hospital visits have decreased. Children can learn, grow and be kids.
Parents now have greater peace of mind and the time to focus on other initiatives to improve the community. These programs include Village Savings and Loan groups, helping improve community members’ financial status. A care group program promotes behavior changes at the household level in hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and breastfeeding.
“My life has greatly improved, thanks to Feed the Children,” said Eunice, a mother of four. “Because of Feed the Children, my family drinks clean and safe water, and going to fetch water is not a burden for me anymore. I have enough time to do my house chores and also rest. Before, I used to spend long hours at the well just to fetch water.”
This Sunday is World Water Day, and we’re inviting you to celebrate the this community’s success and make that same change possible in other places around the world. Our gift catalog makes it easy to donate.
For the cost of a bottle of water a day, you can provide a water filter kit for a entire family. Does your office have a water cooler? For the same price, you and your co-workers can come together and provide a hand-washing station for a community to help prevent disease. Give today.
This is one of the central messages of the upcoming feature film DO YOU BELIEVE? opening around the country March 20. The cast includes Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Cybill Shepherd and Ted McGinley and is a project of Pure Flix Entertainment, the creators of last year’s God’s Not Dead. The new film tells the story of twelve strangers and the ways their lives intersect with one another to create positive change in their lives and communities.
We’re excited that Feed the Children has been selected as a charity partner for the film. Kevin Hagan, CEO of Feed the Children, says, “DO YOU BELIEVE? is a must-see film! It’s filled with so many truths of the power of love and the importance of not giving up on those who seem too far gone to help or save. At Feed the Children, we are in the business of not giving up—no matter how daunting the problem of child hunger is. We see on a day-to-day basis how one person, with God’s help, can forever alter the future and lives of people.”
Putting one’s beliefs into action isn’t just the message of DO YOU BELIEVE?—it’s a guiding principle behind Feed the Children’s work. We believe that kids thrive when they have access to food, clean water, a quality education and the chance for a better future. We put that belief into action through the work we do every day. But we don’t do this work alone—we partner with individuals and organizations around the country and world.
Like the couple who is signing up to sponsor a child because they believe in using their resources to make a difference in the life of a young person halfway around the world. Or the mother buying Easter gifts for her family who decides to shop from our gift catalog, because she’s committed to creating lasting change for a community in need.
Like parents and community members in Haiti meeting together in care groups because they believe community collaboration is the best way to overcome poverty.
Matt Panos, chief development officer of Feed the Children, says, “DO YOU BELIEVE? is a ‘celebration of grace’ and an important reminder for how we should love and care for our neighbors. It’s a real-life depiction of how believers and non-believers interact in everyday life with the subtle thread of Biblical teaching for how we, as Christians, should act toward each other and toward a world that is watching us.”
Join us at the movies… and in partnership as we put belief into action, so kids can be kids.