“Feed the hungry and help those in trouble” are clear instructions from the Bible. Pat Robertson was reading this passage from the 58th chapter of Isaiah early one morning in 1978 and was inspired to found Operation Blessing. Since then, by the grace of God and the generosity of countless donors, OBI has grown into a global humanitarian organization.
We are much bigger now but still follow the timeless mandate to feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Of all the ways that we help people, the most challenging by far is feeding the hungry — because poor people get hungry every day.
Buying food and handing it out is a noble thing to do, but it isn’t sustainable and doesn’t line up with OBI’s core “Loaves and Fishes”strategy of multiplying the impact of every donor dollar. Over the years, OBI has found a multitude of creative ways to feed the hungry. There is no one-size-fits-all feed-the-hungry strategy so every country and culture needs a customized strategy. Here are a few examples of OBI efforts to feed the hungry:
In the Peruvian Amazon region, we sponsor an elementary school garden program that gives children hands-on training as they experience a full seed-to-harvest cycle. One of the secrets to breaking cycles of generational poverty is getting kids so excited that they inspire their parents to use this new knowledge. As part of the school program, several families are selected to receive starter kits to serve as models for their neighbors. This results in more people raising more food.
In Qaraqosh, the largest Christian community in Iraq, Operation Blessing is helping restore basic infrastructure to encourage refugees who ran from ISIS to return home. Until food and water is readily available in the city, residents languish in refugee camps far from home. We assisted in restoring the public water system that pumps from the Tigris River and are helping locals renovate a damaged bakery, restaurant, dairy, and chicken farm.
In Haiti, we built and operate a tilapia hatchery and fish farm capable of producing hundreds of thousands of fingerlings a month and have planted countless baby tilapia in many fished-out lakes and reservoirs. Tilapia reproduce on their own and thrive eating only algae. This approach, called fish ranching, is a great way to help feed the poorest of the poor long term.
In El Salvador, OBI partners with the government to annually distribute bagged fertilizer to over 35,000 small farmers who use it to invigorate tiny plots of otherwise worn out, barren soil. Crop yields are multiplied and hunger is mitigated. Similarly, in Guatemala and Mexico, we have trained hundreds of small farmers and school kids to build and use raised growing beds, drip irrigation, organic fertilizers, and earthworms to produce bountiful crops on tiny plots of land.
In Kenya, we drilled a 600 foot deep solar-powered well, installed drip irrigation, and trained Maasai tribal women to raise acres of vegetables on otherwise parched land producing nutritious food that tribal families can eat or sell. Further, we initiated a poultry project that enabled villagers to raise chickens in the drought-stricken region, and it helps diversify the local diet, increasing their nutrition.
In Japan, following the great earthquake and tsunami we helped hundreds of fishing families get back to producing seafood and income by supplying boats, motors, nets, anchors, and other equipment that is still being used to this day. The communities we helped were the very first back on their feet on the tsunami ravaged coast.
In the U.S., our strategy is quite different since we receive massive quantities of donated food and relief supplies from companies all over the country. We operate a fleet of large trucks with refrigerated trailers from distribution hubs in Virginia, Florida, and Texas. Our Hunger Strike Force distributes millions of pounds of food a year through a vast network of churches and faith-based ministries who help feed American families who are down on their luck. Just last week, we delivered 55 truckloads of food and relief supplies.
World Food Day is celebrated in over 150 countries on October 16th. Please use this opportunity to make a special gift to feed the hungry through innovative and effective strategies like these!