As the U.S. military formulates its battle plan for a possible showdown with Iraq, Scottsdale's Food for the Hungry is drawing its battle plan for a war on hunger and a potential Iraqi refugee crisis.
"The United Nations is estimating 600,000 refugees will spill out of Iraq and into Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Iran," said Roe Ann Estevez, a communications consultant for Food for the Hungry, a faith-based, nondenominational charity. "We want to be there, ready to feed and clothe them."
The agency met on the Greek island of Crete with Manara Ministries of Jordan and U.S.-based World Relief and World Concern and did a preliminary assessment of the potential Iraqi refugee situation, said Ben Homan, president of Food for the Hungry.
"We have a staff member in Jordan working with Jordanian relief agencies and we are serious — very serious — about having the capacity to help if there is a major crisis," Homan said.
Food for the Hungry's battle plan for solving world hunger is different than most agencies; it doesn't bring food and it doesn't leave after the initial crisis is over.
"To move food via ship and then rail to a remote part of the world is not very cost-effective," Homan said.
"In Afghanistan, for example, we used cash to purchase food from neighboring countries and it was not only efficient but it took into account what the refugees eat."
After the population is fed, volunteers and workers with Food for the Hungry work with local leaders and communities to educate the population on how to grow heartier crops, help with infrastructure and dig for clean water.
"We are not in it for the quick-fix solution," Homan said. "We work with the population for solutions. That's how you get stability and that's how you empower people. We emphasize knowledge and, at the end of the day, we want people locally to respond to emergencies on their own."
The story of Feed the Hungry starts in 1971 in Hollywood, Calif., said Dawn Marsh, a Food for the Hungry public information coordinator.
Founder Larry Ward wondered how one person could help the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who were dying from hunger. “They die one at a time, you can help them one at time,” he thought.
Ward founded his organization in Southern California in 1971 and later moved the international headquarters of the organization to Scottsdale.
"He moved the headquarters to the desert Southwest to train hunger corps volunteers who often work overseas in arid conditions," Estevez said.
The organization has offices throughout Europe and Asia, as well as in Canada and Costa Rica.
Besides planning to supply relief to Iraqis, Food for the Hungry is operating in 30 countries including Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cambodia and the Congo, where it is working with the U.S. State Department.
Homan remains enthusiastic about his work with Food for the Hungry.
"A person can make a difference in another person's life. We see it every day on every continent," he said.