The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated $32 million to the United Nations’ World Food Program on Wednesday, representing the Utah-based faith’s largest-ever one-time contribution to a humanitarian organization.
“We are so grateful to collaborate with the World Food Program because we know they will get food to those who need it most,” Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the church’s Presiding Bishopric, said during a visit to the WFP’s headquarters in Rome. “And we thank Latter-day Saints and friends of the faith whose financial sacrifices have made this gift possible. Such giving makes God’s children a little happier and all of us a little holier.”
The money will help provide food to 1.6 million of the most vulnerable people in nine countries — Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen — where the WFP says there is a “seismic hunger crisis.”
The organization’s executive director, David Beasley, thanked the church for its “extraordinary donation,” according to a news release, saying it “could not come at a more critical time.”
“With millions of people starving today,” he added, “WFP is working hard to deliver food, help and hope — and this lifesaving contribution allows us to do just that.”
According to the release, the WFP is “scaling up humanitarian assistance to record levels to avert projected famine.” The organization has provided food to more than half of Yemen’s population of about 30 million, and millions more in Afghanistan have received food and support.
“My heart rejoices for the millions of malnourished children who will benefit from this donation,” said Camille N. Johnson, global leader of the faith’s Relief Society, an organization for women. “Jesus has a tender heart for children. He weeps to see them starve. And he rejoices at even the smallest effort to help them. A huge thanks to the World Food Program and to all who contribute in any way to this cause.”
WFP USA President and CEO Barron Segar called the church’s $32 million donation “transformational,” adding that he is “confident that the church’s gift will inspire others to join our movement to end global hunger.”
The church has partnered with the WFP on dozens of projects since 1996. In 2019, Beasley, a former governor of South Carolina, visited Utah and toured the church’s Welfare Square and Bishops’ Central Storehouse.
In 2020, the church gave the WFP $2 million to help set up “food hubs” in a half-dozen or more countries, making it easier for the agency to reach those in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later that year, the WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger in regions facing conflict and hardship at a time when the coronavirus drove millions to the brink of starvation.
“We accept this [latest church] generous donation with gratitude and firm confidence in our ability to use it to deliver food for the most vulnerable,” Ute Klamert, WFP’s deputy executive director of partnerships and advocacy, said in the release, “reaching them in their time of need, helping lift them out of harm’s way, so they can survive and build resilience.”
According to the church, with a global membership of 16.8 million, it donates about $1 billion annually to those in need around the world.
And those needs are vast and deep. A record 345 million people face acute food insecurity, according to the release, with 50 million on the brink of famine.