A palatable symphony of protein-packed lentils, savory rice, nutrient-rich vegetables and a dash of Himalayan salt — with just a sprig of parsley presented on a crisp white plate, the dish could easily be mistaken for a meal at a fine-dining restaurant. Feeding Children Everywhere devised this Red Lentil Jambalaya recipe that doesn’t just cater to taste buds; it fights world hunger and seeks to put an end to it.
Established in 2010, Feeding Children Everywhere has since evolved into a robust mosaic of philanthropic endeavors that includes Fed40, FedConnect and the U.S. Hunger Project.
Since it was founded, FCE has distributed over 100 million meals all over the world.
U.S. Hunger Project: Hunger at Home
Forty-two million Americans live below the poverty level. Nearly 450,000 of those individuals are homeless. That leaves roughly 41.5 million Americans who are working, disabled or underemployed — and struggling.
A mission that started abroad was quickly brought back home in 2012 with the launch of the U.S. Hunger Project. The new program was established in response to a 60 Minutes story that showcased hunger in Central Florida.
David Green, CEO of FCE, vividly remembers a segment that featured a father and his daughter living in their van. “As they were filming, we noticed that right behind them was the post office where our P.O. box was, where our donation checks come in. We were really challenged by that. The work we were doing internationally was very important, but there are also families right here that need help.”
Since then, nearly 70 percent of the meals the organization produces have stayed in the U.S.
A Hunger Project enables people to package healthy meals for hungry people in a collaborative group setting. Hunger Projects are often hosted by corporate partners, religious institutions, schools, or the FCE itself at the organization’s headquarters in Longwood. With music blasting, boxes stacking and a sea of happy faces, volunteers work together to package meals for children and families.
Green understands that the mission is bold, but attainable. “Our dream goal would be that there would be no hunger, that there would be no countries with children dying of starvation, or there would be no kids right here in the U.S. who are going to school without having eaten a meal since lunch the day before.”
Fed40: Altruism and Innovation
Uniting technology with charity, Feeding Children Everywhere recently developed a doorstep delivery food assistance program. Aptly deemed the “food pantry of the future,” families the organization calls “food insecure” can request that healthy meals be delivered right to their doorstep, at no cost to them.
The Fed40 program extends a helping hand during times of need for people in all kinds of situations that cause them to end up unable to afford food. These include single parents who won’t sacrifice quality of education or living and would rather suffer for the sake of their children’s well-being; individuals who work multiple jobs, yet still struggle financially and don’t have the time to go to a food pantry; and formerly dual-income homes that can no longer make ends meet because one partner has lost a job.
Just like other popular meal kit services, Fed40 enables those in need to log onto the website or mobile app, request food and receive it on their doorstep the very next day.
“We max out on our number of requests every single day,” Green said. “We’ve shipped between 300,000 and 400,000 meals in just the last few months alone.”
The FCE team considered the impact that receiving food assistance can have on a family. In a thoughtful display of compassion, the team decided not to label any of its products.
“We wanted to eliminate any potential instance of shame from the process,” Green said. “We made it a point to not place our Feeding Children Everywhere label on the packaging.”
The user receives one nondescript box per month that contains 40 servings. The food includes Red Lentil Jambalaya, Veggie Pasta Bites, Apple Crisp Breakfast Bites and other products. FCE sources all of the ingredients from local farms or companies within the United States.
Green constantly searches for methods to achieve the group’s objectives. “Our vision as an organization is to see a hunger-free world. That sounds like an audacious thing to say, but for us we believe that one of the most fundamental elements in solving world hunger is creating stable self-sufficiency.”
Every four months, a designated case manager reaches out to evaluate the progress of recipients. “We really want to understand why these people need food assistance, because it helps us create programs that better serve them,” Green said. “As a result, one of the things we’ve done is that on the app, people have the ability now to click for additional services within the Fed40 program. Whether they’d like help or training with job skills or computer skills, or help starting and growing a small business, we can offer that.”
FedConnect: Training for Success
A comprehensive extension of Fed40, FedConnect puts interested recipients in contact with relevant training programs or certification courses. Through FedConnect, users enroll in job skills programs, computer skills training, English-as-a-second-language courses, and other services that address the root causes of poverty.
“What we’ve realized is the way we can best serve these people is to try to help them out of the situation they’re in,” Green said, “to bring them to a level of self-sufficiency with job skills and additional training services.” FCE has even developed its own entrepreneurship incubator and certification course to propel people toward financial independence.
“The one I’m most excited about is our entrepreneurship program,” Green said. “We have local in-person courses and we offer virtual classes. The last group we had, six people graduated and five of those six had legitimate running businesses with customers and income by the end of the course.”
Green fondly remembers one of his students who had fallen on hard times when a natural disaster destroyed her home, leaving her homeless. She was not making enough money to invest in repairs, so she stayed with friends and family members until she learned of FCE’s FedConnect small business courses.
She enrolled in the program, and after graduation she revived her business with passion. She was eventually able to invest in the necessary repairs and return to her home. A beacon of success and triumph, this former student now is a facilitator for the class that teaches others how to start and grow small businesses, Green said — an accomplishment that makes him proud of the organization.
“Being a part of people’s lives like that is one of the most rewarding things in my entire life.” Green hopes to expand the reach of the small business courses and equip more entrepreneurs around the world. “Within the next couple of years, we hope to create hundreds, and eventually thousands of business owners around the country.”
Beauty from Tragedy
In response to the devastation brought about by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Don and Kristen Campbell gathered food and supplies to send to survivors. They developed a non-perishable, nutrient-packed recipe that was filling and low-cost to create. It consisted of four ingredients: red lentils, rice, dehydrated vegetables and Himalayan salt. This simple recipe would eventually become part of FCE history.
At the end of 2011, Green met the Campbells. They had just started FCE and were recruiting passionate, like-minded people to help it grow.
“Before I was involved with Feeding Children Everywhere, I had gotten to this point where I wasn’t feeling happy about my life,” Green said. “Things were fine on the surface, but I felt like there was more to life than what I was experiencing.
“I made this radical decision to quit my job and give away everything I owned. In 2008, I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The thing I learned the most while I was out there was that if I was ever really going to be happy with my life, my life needed to be about serving others.”
Green immediately knew when he met the Campbells and learned of Feeding Children Everywhere that he needed to be involved.
Fighting for a Hunger-Free World
Since 2010, Feeding Children Everywhere has positively affected millions of lives. In 2017, the organization took a pledge of sustainability to ensure a positive long-term environmental impact. FCE committed to a goal of 50 percent reduction of long-haul shipping and 50 percent reduction in miles and air travel. The organization also switched its meal packaging to biodegradable bags.
“If we’re not responsible with how we take care of the environment now, we could eventually alter a country’s crop yield,” Green said. “When we end up in situations like that, no nonprofit can produce enough results to outdo Mother Nature.”
Not surprisingly, Feeding Children Everywhere has a comprehensive approach to philanthropy. Green believes that with enough passion and drive, anyone has the power to make a difference.
“The reality is one person can make a difference,” he said. “Whether that’s making a difference for a next-door neighbor in a time of need or volunteering on a project or even sharing a social media post. Anybody can make a difference.”