Contributing Author: Sarah Costa
Sharing food is a fundamental part of many religions. In the book of Luke in the Christian Bible, for example, Christians are urged to share food: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food let him do likewise.” A famous Hindu proverb reads: “May the person who donated food remain happy forever.” In the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, those who feed the needy are described as those who will be among the “companions of the right” and will inherit paradise. The Buddha said “hunger is the worst kind of illness,” and that “if people knew the results of giving, they wouldn’t eat without having shared their meal with others.”
Based on these principles, faith-based organizations have historically contributed to humanitarian aid worldwide, many of them with a focus on alleviating hunger and promoting food security. Food Tank is excited to highlight 24 faith-based organizations fighting food insecurity around the globe.
Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) is headquartered in Switzerland and has program units in 19 countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan. AKF works to reduce inequalities and increase food security, following the ethical principles of Islam. AKF focuses on boosting agricultural yields in food-scarce areas to “effectively reduce poverty, ensure tangible food security, and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families.” AKF supports farming communities by offering technical assistance for production, transportation, and commercialization, including support to establish appropriate infrastructure and sustainable land management. AKF also works with communities to encourage healthy diets and adequate food preparation and storage. In Diana, Madagascar, AKF supports 5,500 cocoa farmers to improve the quality of their crops and help them access markets.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is a men and boys group with several humanitarian projects ranging from environmental education to healthcare access initiatives. One of their latest initiatives, Muslim Youth Against Hunger, aims to fight hunger in America through partnerships with other organizations (Why Hunger, Humanity First USA, Capital Area Food Bank, Houston Food Bank, Seattle Food LifeLine, and more). The group organizes food drives and fundraisers to benefit communities living in areas where their partners operate.
BAPS Charities is the social service branch of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha sect of Hinduism, with activities across the world. They focus on improving education and healthcare for the poor through the work of volunteers in the U.S., Canada, Kenya, South Africa, India, and the United Kingdom. BAPS organizes food drives at local community centers to cater to low-income families and communities affected by natural disasters.
Bread for the World is an American, non-partisan, and Christian movement to end hunger. The organization focuses on advocacy for policy change by engaging individuals and groups in annual campaigns with a specific focus on matters related to food and agriculture. Bread for the World organizes fundraisers for nutrition programs and encourages activists and members to write letters to their members of Congress, urging them to take action on the issue of hunger and food security. The organization also raises awareness among Christian communities and conducts training in congregations, campuses, and community groups, while working globally with communities hit by natural disasters to tackle post-disaster food insecurity.
Buddhist Global Relief’s (BGR) primary focus is to provide food relief and poverty alleviation both in the developing world and in the U.S. Their projects aim to foster better long-term methods of sustainable food production and distribution, ensuring a constant supply of healthy and nutritious food to their beneficiaries. BGR also focuses on addressing the root causes of poverty and malnutrition. BGR has projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which include the provision of healthy meals in hospitals and schools, and improving nutrition for pregnant women, infants, and children. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, BGR works in the Korhogo District focusing on decreasing the incidence of child malnutrition. Over two hundred and sixty locals were trained as health workers, and together they have reached over 45,745 children and mothers.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works globally with organizations to help poor and vulnerable people overcome emergencies and earn a living through agriculture. The organization is based in the U.S., where it helps smallholder farmers recover from natural disasters and civil strife and become “agro-enterprises that engage successfully with markets.” CRS helps farmers organize themselves into groups that create a common fund from which they can borrow from each other to buy seeds, equipment, and other assets. With 124 agriculture projects in 51 countries, savings groups have collectively saved almost US$23 million, impacting approximately 5 million beneficiaries worldwide.
Food for the Hungry (FH) is a Christian organization focused on community development with the goal of helping communities escape extreme poverty in approximately 10 years. With operations in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the organization focuses on all forms of human poverty, addressing physical, spiritual, and relational needs of vulnerable people, especially children. Their work includes efforts to reduce malnutrition and improve food security, to enhance resilience to shocks, and improve livelihoods among vulnerable households. FH helps local farmers implement new techniques to successfully grow enough produce and raise livestock to feed families and earn additional income. FH also collects farming and gardening tools as donations to farmers in beneficiary communities. The organization began in 1971 and operates out of Phoenix, Arizona.
Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability, aims to create a vibrant, healthy Jewish community and a more environmentally sustainable world for all. Hazon supports farmers, hosts farmers’ markets at synagogues, and helps source local food at Jewish institutions. They also offer educational resources for children and adults. Through JOFFEE (Jewish, Outdoor, Food, Farming, & Environmental Education), Hazon seeks to connect people to Judaism, community, and the natural world with hands-on professional development experiences across different ages, Jewish backgrounds, and religious approaches.
The Hindu American Association (HAF) is an advocacy group focused on human rights protection for Hindus and other minorities. Besides working for religious accommodation and against religious discrimination, HAF also works collecting food donations to aid partner food banks, especially those which cater to Hindu communities. HAF’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C. and runs activities across the U.S.
“Food aid is the largest sector of Islamic Relief USA’s humanitarian aid”. Their programs include worldwide meat distribution, disaster response with food and water, and food pantries across the U.S. The organization also has projects in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
11. Khalsa Aid
Khalsa Aid is a Sikh organization that since 1999, provides emergency food and water supplies in disaster and war zones across the globe. They have offered support to victims of the Yemen Civil War, refugees from the Middle East, the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, and people affected by natural disasters in Nepal, Australia, and the Caribbean. In the U.S., Khalsa Aid runs food pantries for low-income American families weekly, and through the Khalsa Aid Peace Corps, they offer daily meals to families in need.
12. Langar Chile
Langar is a Sikh non-profit organization that serves meals to homeless people in Chile. In Sikhism, langar is a term that describes a community kitchen that serves free meals to any visitors, regardless of religious beliefs. Since 2004 Langar Chile has operations in low-income areas across the country, and in 2010 they extended their operations to catastrophe zones.
Leket is a Jewish food-rescue organization that collects food from farms, hotels, caterers, and military bases to donate to people in need in Israel. Leket has over 47 thousand volunteers and has helped over 175 thousand people by providing hot meals and fresh fruits and vegetables.
14. Manos Unidas
Manos Unidas (United Hands) is a Catholic organization based in Spain. Manos Unidas focuses on raising awareness about the issue of hunger and poverty, its consequences, and possible solutions. The organization works in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, prioritizing isolated communities in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In these communities, they seek to improve agricultural production capacities, diversify income sources, increase access to water and sanitation, and promote better nutritional practices. They also offer support by providing technical training in agriculture to introduce best practices, mitigation, adaptation, and productive resilience strategies in the face of climate change. In 2018, Manos Unidas invested over EU€36 million (US$40 million) to benefit 1.5 million people affected by hunger in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.
Masbia is a Jewish nonprofit soup kitchen network and food pantry that offers kosher meals to the food-insecure population of New York City. They have three restaurant-like settings where they offer free restaurant-style meals served by volunteer waitresses and waiters. Through their weekend take-home package program, Masbia also provides groceries to food-insecure families weekly.
Mazon is a Jewish nonprofit based in Los Angeles. They work to end hunger in the U.S. and Israel by promoting hunger relief and supporting communities to achieve advanced long-term solutions that improve food security. They advocate for public policies that address the root causes of hunger; provide funding, training, and resources to organizations who are committed to ending hunger; and work to guarantee access to nutritious food through an emergency food network for targeted communities. Last year, Mazon led 36 rapid response anti-hunger projects in 22 states in the U.S.
This Muslim network of more than 5000 volunteers helps the hungry in the U.S., Canada, Haiti, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Volunteers sign up online to help prepare or deliver food. In the U.S., the “Hunger Van”—a mobile soup kitchen—drives around the streets of New Jersey feeding the homeless since 2011. Another initiative, the “One World Community Café” aims to feed those who are not homeless, but struggle with food insecurity, and especially focuses on the elderly.
18. Muslim Hands
Muslim Hands is an organization based in the United Kingdom working in over 40 countries to help communities affected by natural disasters, conflict, and poverty. Among its priorities are the livelihood projects, which aim to provide vocational training and the provision of livestock, rickshaws and bicycles, fruit trees and plantations, bees and honeycomb kits, seeds, and agricultural equipment. Muslim Hands also offers food aid to victims of war and humanitarian crises like the Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh.
Plainsong Farm & Ministry is a community-supported agriculture organization, based in the U.S. state of Michigan. The farm provides shares of their harvest to members and neighbors weekly, and members are encouraged to buy and donate shares. Local poverty relief agencies distribute donations to people in need in locations close to the farm.
Tearfund is a British Christian relief and development agency. With its focus on reducing poverty worldwide, TearFund supports initiatives that help communities produce more food in environmentally sustainable ways without the need for expensive chemicals or machinery. TearFund works through local churches, using them as catalysts for action. Their seven keys to ending hunger include developing profitable farming models; promoting sustainable farming techniques; preventing and controlling all forms of malnutrition; building communities resilient to disasters; providing emergency support in times of crisis; and promoting equality.
This Muslim organization based in New Jersey in the U.S. aims to promote better nutritional habits by offering affordable healthy food options, providing organic botanical products for personal care, natural cleaning, and functional foods. The Good Tree Farm also provides entrepreneurship opportunities to youth from socioeconomically disadvantaged faith communities. As a farm, the organization also invites people who “want to produce food locally, use it to feed and heal themselves and others, and lift up those less fortunate.”
World Hunger Relief, Inc. (WHRI) is a Christian organization based in Waco, Texas. WHRI is committed to the alleviation of food insecurity and malnutrition through sustainable agriculture and community development. WHRI is fighting hunger globally by training interns to be agricultural missionaries, leaders of anti-hunger organizations, educators, and sustainable farmers who can effectively address the issues of hunger in their communities in 20 countries and four continents. In the U.S., WHRI works in partnership with Waco Family Health Center clinics offering a vegetable prescription program to populations vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. They also host several educational programs focusing on sustainable agriculture, environmental responsibility, and world hunger issues.
23. World Vision
World Vision is a global Christian humanitarian organization working in nearly 100 countries. While its focus is child health and wealth, World Vision works closely with communities to fight hunger and food insecurity. Their projects help communities increase agricultural productivity through improved seeds and practices, ensuring access to markets, teaching families about nutrition, resources management, and integrated farming systems. They also help farmers organize associations and cooperatives to increase bargaining power, market, and credit access.
Zakat Foundation of America fights hunger in the U.S. and abroad (Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, China, India, Northern Africa, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia) by bringing relief during and after disasters, and supporting community development and micro-credit programs. They run food distribution projects and provide fresh meat for communities in need through the support of community-based initiatives led by volunteers.