YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Even One Hungry Soul Is One Too Many for Minister

Charity: His nonprofit group scouts the planet to match surplus food and goods with the world's needy.


RALEIGH, N.C. — Hungry people around the world eat because of Ray Buchanan.

Sometimes it's because of a deal he brokered. Or because of money he sweet-talked out of a middle-class church congregation or one rich guy. Sometimes it's because of a ruckus he raises with those who control global food programs.

The bottom line is that people eat, and that's what Buchanan cares about most.

It's what drives him to be a professional hunger fighter.

Buchanan works through Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based nonprofit established in 1997. The group has five staffers, but managed to distribute about $10 million in aid to nearly 20 countries last year. Its overhead costs have never exceeded 8% of its total budget.

The group rarely lingers, hopping from Congo to El Salvador to Afghanistan, pouring its efforts into the places with the hungriest people and the most need.

The need rarely eases. Disasters, drought, war and corruption force the world's poor into starvation as one crisis gives way to the next. The unfortunate cycle results in 24,000 deaths a day, at least half of them children, according to the Rome-based World Food Program.

"That's not only ridiculous," Buchanan said. "That's obscene."

In the last year, Stop Hunger Now delivered about $8 million in aid to Afghanistan, a country torn by war but also one where a hunger crisis has been building for years. Access to it was limited until recently, but the toppling of the Taliban regime allowed Buchanan and other relief workers to attend to the needs of an estimated 6 million to 8 million starving people.

For Buchanan, that meant being on the ground, scouting for groups with lean overhead costs and efficient distribution. He can't abide those who trade food for political dogma and eschews well-meaning devotees who proselytize by offering food to the starving.

The ordained United Methodist minister is driven by what he considers a religious imperative.

"The thing about Christianity is you're supposed to be doing instead of talking about it," he said.

Former Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio, who began work in early August as the United States' ambassador to the U.N. food and agriculture agencies in Rome, said private groups such as Buchanan's are important tools to the World Food Program and other large, government-sponsored programs.

Buchanan's work with the hungry began in 1979, when he and the Rev. Kenneth C. Horne Jr. started the Society of St. Andrew, a ministry in Bedford County, Va., devoted to feeding Americans.

It sends out 46 million pounds of food a year -- the equivalent of three tractor-trailer loads a day.

But Horne said his partner was always more interested in international hunger issues. Although hunger touches about 30 million people in the United States for just three to six days a month, it's more prevalent internationally, according to Horne. Some estimates show that 815 million people in the world go to bed hungry each night.

So when John Hewitt, a millionaire entrepreneur from Virginia Beach, Va., offered Buchanan $250,000 to start an organization that focused on international hunger, Buchanan left the Society of St. Andrew. He moved to Raleigh in September 1999 for access to its international corporate community and airport.

Stop Hunger Now's reach and budget have grown steadily. In the last five years, Buchanan has worked in about 45 countries.

Los Angeles Times Articles