Freedom from Hunger Celebrates 65 Years

Today July 5, 2011 Freedom from Hunger proudly commemorates 65 years in the fight against global hunger. Our organization has amassed a long list of accomplishments over the decades — most notably, equipping millions of families with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to end their hunger. Yet we mark this anniversary solemnly because the problem of world hunger is staggering. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that approximately 925 million people are undernourished, nearly all in developing countries. Chronic hunger claims more victims than famine each year and is a persistent condition that can affect generations of people in a geographic region.

We have learned a great deal over the years. Founded by Clifford Clinton, we began as Meals for Millions in 1946, the organization that developed and introduced Multi-Purpose Food, a high-protein, soy-based powdered food supplement that became the forerunner of the food supplements used today in relief efforts around the world. In the 1960s, the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation, founded at the behest of President John F. Kennedy, mobilized Americans to become involved in the FAO's global Freedom from Hunger campaign. The organization's mission was to educate the American public about hunger issues. In 1968, the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation sponsored its first "Walk for Development," which was an enormous success. Within a year, more than 100 "walks" raised more than $800,000 and involved more than a million people in 16 states. In 1979, Meals for Millions was consolidated with Freedom from Hunger. In the 1980s, we implemented Applied Nutrition Programs, a broad community development approach focusing on the health and nutrition of mothers and children.

Freedom from Hunger's current president, Chris Dunford, joined the organization in 1984 and was co-creator of the Credit with Education methodology in 1989. Microfinance is a powerful self-help support service, providing credit and saving services that are affordable, flexible and reliable. It assists the poor in reducing the uncertainties of cash management and allows them to borrow for needs and opportunities such as starting or growing small businesses. Microfinance alone, however, is not enough. From the start of our commitment to microfinance, Freedom from Hunger designed practical education that prepares women in their community microfinance meetings to implement better health, nutrition, business and money management in their daily lives. To add further value to microfinance, we are developing innovative approaches to offer women access to healthcare services and medicines where they are locally available and of good quality.

"Microfinance is succeeding at putting money into the hands of poor people, but too often ill health causes them to slip back into deep poverty again," said Chris Dunford. "Our solution is to bring together the economic development and health sectors to develop practical and coordinated tools that have more power to create lasting change." Our programs include health savings, health loans, health insurance, health education, group discounts with health providers, mobile healthcare in rural villages, distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and more.

Today, Freedom from Hunger still follows the vision of its founder, Clifford Clinton, using sound science to guide its programs, being mindful of scarce resources and, most of all, giving people resources to help themselves to have a future free from hunger.

Self-Reliance and Dignity
Clifford Clinton believed that the dignity of self-reliance was a key factor in making an anti-hunger strategy work. He understood that people want to take care of themselves and provide for their families. Clinton espoused the proverb, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Over the years, we've amended that saying based on the experience we've gained and now prefer to say, "Teach a woman to fish and her entire family eats...for generations to come."

Clinton knew that hunger was a massive problem and that local people and organizations were woefully under-utilized as trucks of food relief rolled into villages and towns. His idea was to develop food technologies and distribution strategies and then turn over everything — knowledge, skills and resources — to local people who would sustain and grow the programs. Today, Freedom from Hunger continues to work in partnership with other development agencies to share resources and complement each other's strengths to create large-scale programs. Partnership with in-country organizations leverages our technical assistance and training with their contributions of dedicated staff, logistical support and knowledge about local customs and challenges. Together, we support the self-help determination of the women we serve. The women we seek to help are already working hard to feed their families and lift themselves out of poverty. They are ready to learn and make the most of every opportunity we provide. We don't have to support them endlessly — only equip them for success. They do the rest.

Simply wanting to make a difference is not enough, but using research to ensure you are having an impact is still unusual in the non-profit world. Clifford Clinton knew the importance of sound research to support innovation. His colleague was the eminent food scientist, Henry Borsook, who created Multi-Purpose Food. Together, they offered this innovation for use worldwide, along with the evidence to show it works.

Freedom from Hunger has been a leader among non-profit organizations in using scientific research to document program impact. We have developed tools and systems for implementing partners to monitor their own progress as part of what is called Social Performance Management. We also support or conduct rigorous impact studies to investigate the outcomes of our innovations. While many microfinance institutions target both financial and social results, few actually collect evidence that their services are improving the lives of the people they serve. Our standards of success include healthier families, improved household food security, and groups of women who are empowered with knowledge, motivation and support to make positive and lasting change in their communities. All of these impacts have been documented in scientific studies.

Freedom from Hunger remains committed to ending hunger. We have received four consecutive 4-star evaluations from Charity Navigator, an achievement matched by only 9% of the charities they rate. This and other top ratings from charity watchdogs indicate that Freedom from Hunger consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way and outperforms most charities in America. President Chris Dunford continues to provide exceptional organizational leadership and advances Freedom from Hunger's objectives as a speaker and writer for international audiences on the impacts of microfinance for the chronically hungry poor, on measurement and management toward social objectives, and on integration of microfinance with lifeskills education and health protection. Dunford and an exceptionally experienced staff lead workshops at major conferences around the world to communicate the power of combining microfinance programs with other services. We find that, more than ever, our colleagues and peers are inspired by our approach. We have also published numerous technical guides, research reports and papers to show other practitioners how to implement their own integrated microfinance and health protection programs.

Ultimately, however, nothing compares to hearing a mother share her story about how she can now feed her child every day due to our innovations and partnerships with local organizations. For these many personal stories of progress, we have our loyal donors to thank for their support.

Reaching our 65th anniversary is certainly a significant milestone on our path toward reaching more and more people with integrated microfinance, education and health protection. Looking forward, our resources are focused on growing the number of participants — currently more than 3.2 million women — to nearly 8 million women by 2014.

The most comprehensive book published about the history of Meals for Millions and Freedom from Hunger was compiled over a period of 35 years. History of Meals for Millions, Soy, and Freedom from Hunger (1946-2011) is a free e-book by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, available at