Top leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints applauded the news that their longtime ally in the battle against global hunger — the United Nations' World Food Program — had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The World Food Program works in some of the most remote, difficult and conflict-wracked circumstances in the world,” Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities, said in a statement released Saturday. “To a person of faith like me, their efforts to meet the most basic human need of hunger is embodied in the words of Jesus Christ: ‘I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.’”
Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Utah-based church, has partnered with the U.N. agency on more than 50 projects in 20 countries since 1996.
Just last month, the church donated $2 million to the World Food Program to help the international agency establish “food hubs” in a half-dozen or more countries to expedite the sending of lifesaving staples to those in need.
It also recently contributed an undisclosed sum to the U.N. program to feed children in Somalia who are going hungry because of pandemic-related school closures. The aid was expected to bring food for five months to more than 35,000 kids.
“Over the years, we have seen their work up close,” Gérald Caussé, the church’s presiding bishop, said in a separate statement. "Their leadership in combating hunger and food insecurity around the globe is not only inspiring but also truly impactful.
“Hunger has become even more urgent and widespread, and WFP has not allowed the challenges of COVID-19 to slow their efforts,” added Caussé, who oversees the faith’s financial, investment, real estate and charitable operations. “The Savior teaches that everyone is our neighbor and WFP continues to bless the lives of God’s children in many places in the world today.”
Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the women’s Relief Society, and W. Christopher Waddell, another member of the Presiding Bishopric, met last year with David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, about how to keep problems triggered by conflict and climate change from escalating into emergencies — and how to respond to them when they do.
“If you take the old approach of just handing out food, you would be there for 30 or 40 years” in suffering areas, Beasley said after touring the church’s Welfare Square and Bishops' Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City. “Our goal is to have an exit strategy in every place that we go. In other words, how do we put the World Food Program out of business?”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lamented, however, that food insecurity still plagues too many nations, necessitating the continued work of such wide-ranging humanitarian efforts.
“In a world of plenty, it is unconscionable that hundreds of millions go to bed each night hungry,” Guterres told The Associated Press. “Millions more are now on the precipice of famine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In honoring the World Food Program, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it desired “to turn the eyes of the world” toward such suffering.