Food For The Poor, Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History
As good stewards of your donated dollars, we take our responsibility as a Christian charity very seriously and we are always working hard to find the most efficient and cost-effective means of securing goods and shipping them. For 23 years, we have worked hard to keep our operating costs as low as possible to keep your donation hard at work serving the poor.
History of Food For The Poor, Inc.
Food For The Poor, Inc. is a Christian charity that provides food, health, social, economic, and emergency relief services in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The nonprofit organization helps those most in need through feeding, housing, medical assistance, education, water projects, micro-enterprise programs, and emergency relief operations.
The group, which uses 96 percent of its funds on programs, partners with Caritas in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala; The Order of Malta in Honduras and Guatemala; the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras; Roman Catholic dioceses in Belize, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, and El Salvador; Operation Compassion; thousands of churches of all denominations; missionaries; and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
1982 to the Mid-1990s: Providing Food, Healthcare, Social, and Economic Relief
Ferdinand Mahfood cofounded Food For The Poor, Inc. (FFP) with his brother, Robin Mahfood, in 1982. Two of four brothers of Lebanese extraction involved in the import-export business between Jamaica and the United States, Ferdinand had undergone a religious conversion in 1980 during which he determined to help the destitute of Jamaica. With the support of his two other brothers, Joseph and Samuel, he established his nonprofit organization and began to collect funds from North American and European benefactors.
Throughout the 1980s, FFP expanded its scope and streamlined its distribution system. In addition to food, it began to ship medical supplies and equipment and educational materials. To ensure that its aid was meaningful in every case, FFP would send a project specialist to the area in need to assess the situation and to help develop a long-term recovery plan. The agency then shopped on the world market for specific items and shipped them duty-free to local allied Third World churches, missionary programs, and charity organizations. FFP's allied programs arranged for the direct distribution of the items. In this way, FFP eliminated many of the overhead costs that other international relief efforts incurred, while making certain that the items it purchased reached their intended audience. FFP also ensured a low administrative cost for the agency.
FFP expanded into other areas of assistance in the 1980s, including microenterprise programs. Mahfood's goal for those his organization served was that they break free from the cycle of poverty. He believed that education and self-help must fortify charity work to make a true difference. To this end, FFP began to support programs that taught recipients how to raise livestock and develop small businesses; it also provided agricultural assistance to independent farmers throughout the 1980s. In addition, FFP began to build small houses for poor families in 1982, first in Jamaica, a nation whose economy had begun to decline in 1974 as a result of rising fuel costs and recession, and then in Haiti in 1989.
By 1995, FFP was supplying more than $37 million in program services to the destitute poor. Haiti was a primary target for the agency that year as it endeavored to meet requests that had gone unfulfilled during the United Nations' three-year embargo on the country. In all, FFP provided more than $9.4 million in aid to Haiti in 1995, through goods as well as financial support to a variety of relief programs that included hospitals, orphanages, schools, a home for people with physical handicaps, and a village for the elderly. FFP also ran a full service hospital and outpatient clinics in Haiti, as well as providing assistance in the form of food, medicine, and medical equipment to all of the hospitals in Haiti.
1995-99: An Emphasis on Disaster Relief and Homes for the Poor
Also established in the mid-1990s was the organization's Caribbean Hurricane Relief Program, which provided emergency assistance to Caribbean countries affected by storms during the 1996 hurricane season. These countries included Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad, and Granada, nations that did not otherwise receive aid from the United States or other industrialized nations. The goal of this program, according to Ferdinand Mahfood in a 1996 press release, was "to be prepared before the [hurricane] season starts with supplies and funds. It is difficult for the poor residents of these countries to provide for themselves under good conditions. Even a minor storm can have devastating effects for families for many years--and some may never recover from the financial setback."
FFP continued building houses for poor families in Jamaica and Haiti in the late 1990s. In Jamaica, FFP built 2,000 homes after the government agreed to donate approximately 200 acres of land and the necessary infrastructure to support the new community roads, sewer connections, and electricity. Restrooms and shower facilities for the community as a whole were communal. According to Mahfood in a press release, "No one should have to bathe or do other private things in public. Building community showers and restroom facilities is a step in the right direction." In 1998, the agency expanded its building program to El Salvador, and in 1999, it partnered with the American-Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF) to begin construction on Villa Nueva, 263 new homes on close to 90 acres of land in northwestern Nicaragua.
Villa Nueva's occupants came from a community that had been flooded out by Hurricane Mitch. Each family involved was required to send two workers to the construction teams that built the homes, which when finished, were handed over to the female heads of family. Assigning home ownership to women went against the established norms of the region; however, FFP opted to do so, as it explained in a 1999 press release, because of the high rate at which husbands abandoned their families in northwestern Nicaragua and women were "left to fend for themselves and their children with no property and little or no income." By giving women legal ownership of the new homes, "[w]e're trying to make the rebuilding efforts an opportunity for the women of the region to improve their position in society. By placing the homes we build under the names of the women, we give them a power in the family they usually don't have," explained Ferdinand Mahfood.
Also in 1999, FFP began a several-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and shipped 13 million pounds of food on Christmas Day to Central America. Part of the U.S. government's Presidential Initiative 416B, a program that ships surplus agricultural commodities to developing countries to alleviate hunger, FFP's effort targeted children, the elderly, and community aid families. Children were weighed and examined before and after the distribution of commodities, and parents were taught proper nutrition and feeding habits for their families.
2000-05: Unprecedented and Ongoing Growth
Ferdinand Mahfood retired in 2000 and Robin Mahfood took over as head of FFP. In 2001, the USDA awarded FFP about $25 million in commodities for distribution in Jamaica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Guyana. In December 2002, Food For The Poor received a three-year award of 53 million pounds a year of nonfat dry milk from the USDA, for distribution in 14 countries. This assistance, which also targeted children, the elderly, infirm, and homeless persons, reached more than four million people.
During the 2002 hurricane season, FFP relied upon its warehouse in Spanish Town, Jamaica, to supply other relief agencies, including the U.N. World Food Program, the International Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and CARE, with food, water, and relief supplies. In direct response to hurricane Ivan, FFP increased production from 250 homes per month to 500 homes and began to distribute dry food throughout Jamaica. With funds from Alcoa Foundation, it began to teach fishermen in two Jamaican communities a more sustainable and environmentally friendly technique of fishing. It purchased boats and fishing and cooling equipment so the fisherman could fish further out in the water away from endangered reefs. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, in the Bahamas, Granada, and Haiti, FFP met the devastating results of the hurricane season with $35 million in relief assistance.
In 2003, FFP, by then the largest relief organization operating in the Caribbean and the third largest charity in the United States, experienced unprecedented growth. Total support received during 2003 was $465 million, up from $351 million the year before. According to President Robin Mahfood in a press release, the agency had "continued to streamline all of [its] operations," and this, combined with its increased scale of operations, had reduced its operating expense ratio to 4.7 percent in 2003, a drop of slightly more than 4 percent since 1999.
The agency distributed more than 3,000 containers of aid to 16 countries in 2003, an increase of close to 2,500 containers from 2002. It built 2,391 homes for families (although slightly more than 100 of these could not be occupied because of inadequate sewage and other concerns). In another new initiative, The Prison Ministry Department of FFP paid out $2,000 in 2003 to buy the freedom of 15 prisoners in Jamaica who had been incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, such as theft of food or traffic violation, and were being held only because they lacked the funds to pay their fines.
Based on its belief that poverty consisted not just of low income but included the undermining of the means of achieving physical and social access to healthcare, in 2004, FFP embarked on a joint project with St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Andrew, Jamaica, to open Our Lady of the Poor free clinic. The hospital donated six rooms, which FFP paid $1 million to refurbish. The clinic, which aimed to provide proper healthcare to improve the standard of life for the poor, could accommodate 100 clients a day.
That same year, FFP partnered with the Salvation Army to provide accommodations for the homeless in Kingston, Jamaica. After ascertaining that many of those using the facilities lacked the means of supporting themselves, FFP arranged to include programs that would boost their income-earning skills, teaching them methods of chicken rearing and how to operate a sewing machine. It also began building 500 units in the Ellerslie Penn community of Spanish Town, Jamaica, where to date it had built more than 300 houses.
The agency's outstanding growth continued through 2004. FFP distributed a record 5,852 trailers of food and other assistance that year, drawing on total support received of $643 million. Again in 2004, the USDA donated 9,000 metric tons of commodities to FFP under the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. In conjunction with Caritas Arquidiocesana, FFP established a direct feeding program in Guatemala that served 118,000 children, mothers, teachers, caregivers, and volunteers. FFP also built about 4,300 basic homes for families in 2004. Its prison release program, which had expanded to include Guatemala, Honduras, and Guyana, operated twice yearly, at Christmas and Easter.
During 2005, FFP distributed more than 34,000 trailers of assistance valued at more than $3 billion and completed 7,002 houses. It had built more than 33,000 housing units in the Caribbean and Central America since 1982. The agency was ranked as the 13th largest international charity and the third largest international charity in the United States by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the 22nd largest by the Non-Profit Times. Its overhead ratio dropped to below 4 percent.
- Key Dates
- 1982 Ferdinand Mahfood and Robin Mahfood found Food For The Poor (FFP); the agency starts its home building program in Jamaica.
- 1996 The agency starts its Caribbean Hurricane Relief Program.
- 1998 The agency expands its building program to El Salvador.
- 1999 FFP partners with the American-Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF) to begin construction on Villa Nueva; the agency begins its partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- 2000 Robin Mahfood becomes president of the organization.
- 2003 FFP initiates its Prison Ministry Department.
- 2005 The agency is ranked as the 13th largest international charity and the third largest international charity in the United States by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the 22nd largest by the Non-Profit Times.
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