Feed The Children, Inc. History
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73101-0036
Telephone: (405) 942-0228
Toll Free: 800-627-4556
Fax: (405) 945-4177
Sales: $575.9 million (2003)
NAIC: 624230 Emergency and Other Relief Services
Feed The Children is a nonprofit, Christian, charitable organization providing physical, spiritual, educational, vocational/technical, psychological, economic and medical assistance and other necessary aid to children, families, and persons in need in the United States and internationally.
- Larry Jones founds Feed The Children after sending wheat to Haiti.
- The second international office is opened in El Salvador.
- Feed The Children Transportation is formed.
- The first Abandoned Baby Center is established in Kenya; aid is sent to 9/11 victims.
- Boxes of supplies are sent to soldiers in Iraq and their families.
Feed The Children, Inc., is an international relief agency founded and run by televangelist Larry Jones of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The organization provides food, medical care, and day-to-day necessities to needy people in the United States, and also responds to humanitarian crises, disasters, and wars around the world. Feed The Children provides short-term emergency relief as well as working toward long-term improvements in quality of life. Donations of surplus goods and money come from corporations, viewers of Jones's television broadcasts, and through the efforts of other parties including celebrities like actress Melanie Griffith and country singer Garth Brooks.
Feed The Children (FTC) grew out of an Oklahoma City-based Christian organization called Larry Jones International Ministries. Jones, an evangelical minister since 1964, had over the years become well known through appearances on religious television programs. The inspiration for FTC came in January 1979, when he was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to speak at a church. One night, as he was walking back to his hotel following a sermon, a small boy named Jerry approached him, arm outstretched, and asked for a nickel. Jones gave it to him, then paused to ask what he needed it for. The boy said that the nickel would buy him a roll to eat, and another three cents would let him buy butter to put on it. Jones then asked what it would cost for a Coke to wash it down, and gave the boy 20 cents for everything. When he discovered that this was Jerry's only meal of the day, Jones remembered a verse of scripture, "I was hungry and you gave me food" (Matthew 25:35), which he used as the basis for his next sermon.
After he returned to Oklahoma, the plight of the poor in Haiti, and the boy Jerry in particular, kept coming back to his mind. Jones decided to do some research, and soon found out that the U.S. government had a surplus of 35 million metric tons of wheat stored in grain elevators. Along with his wife Frances, he began to appeal to groups wherever he spoke, and on television, to donate money to feed the people of Haiti. Although he had not specifically asked for donations of wheat, farmers offered to give him 50 truckloads of it.
Not sure how to get it to its destination, Jones soon found a volunteer willing to drive the wheat to the shipyard, and another who donated and set up grinding equipment in Haiti. With this success Jones decided to build an organization that he called Feed The Children, which branched out to offer aid to the hungry in Africa as well. In 1981 an office was also opened in El Salvador, and the organization began to offer child sponsorships.
The early 1980s saw FTC offer assistance in the wake of several humanitarian crises around the world, helping famine victims in Ethiopia with food, as well as citizens of Romania with medical needs after the fall of that country's dictator. In 1984 the organization received a prestigious DOVE award for humanitarian work.
Forming a Trucking Subsidiary in 1986
The year 1986 saw the founding of a for-profit trucking subsidiary, Feed The Children Transportation, Inc. During the year the country music group The Oak Ridge Boys approached Jones and offered to donate the proceeds from a concert they were giving in Nice, France. Having just returned from a visit to Africa, Jones told them he would use the money to help drill four wells in the drought-ridden area he had visited, and offered to name one well after each member of the group. Many other celebrities also would pitch in to help the organization over the years, including country singer John Conlee, famous for a hit song called "Busted." When concert-goers one night began putting small amounts of money on the edge of the stage in joking response to the song's lyric about being broke, leaving a total of $58, Conlee got the idea of offering it to FTC to help feed poor Americans in Appalachia. Although Jones was initially nonplussed by Conlee's phoned-in offer of help, when the singer next called he reported that the donations had reached $10,000, and later, after appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and on a television show with Jones, he presented FTC with a check for $150,000. A few years later country superstar Garth Brooks would give FTC $1 from the sale of each copy of his Christmas album, in conjunction with collections at concerts and record stores. Other performers who became involved with the organization over the years included actress Melanie Griffith, actor John Ritter, comedian Sinbad, and politicians from both halves of the political spectrum including Ronald Reagan and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Although donations fell off by as much as one-quarter in the wake of the non-FTC related 1987 scandal involving televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, the organization took in $41 million during that year, and its outreach continued to grow with activities including helping Mother Teresa distribute aid to Armenia following an earthquake there in 1988. By that year, the organization had shipped food and other goods to 34 countries and 44 U.S. states. Jones was now producing a weekly television program that appeared on more than 100 stations in the United States, and 15 FTC trucks were typically on the road at a given time, picking up and delivering donations like grain from Kansas or pasta from Puerto Rico.
By 1991 the organization was taking in $86.3 million worth of donated goods and $25.7 million in cash, and was operating throughout the United States and in dozens of countries abroad, with three-fourths of its assistance distributed at home. FTC reported that it devoted 79.1 percent of its donations to direct relief, 12.1 percent to ministry and education, and the remainder to administrative and fund-raising expenses. It now had 110 employees. During 1991 FTC had distributed goods to victims of an Iranian earthquake and U.S. troops in Operation Desert Storm. Americans hit by Hurricane Andrew were helped the following year when FTC sent 58 truckloads of supplies to Florida.
Controversies in the 1990s
Despite its established record of good works, Feed The Children was not without controversy. In 1991 a 60-year-old organization called Save The Children sued over its similar name and logo, citing copyright infringement, and a year later an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy charged that FTC was exaggerating its efficiency and the amount of funds it spent on charitable giving. Specifically, it was asserted that the donated books that comprised almost 40 percent of the $86.3 million in commodity giving had been valued at their wholesale price, rather than a "charity value" of approximately one-fifth that amount. FTC also was accused of falsely claiming that the radio and television programs it produced, at a cost of nearly $10 million per year, were "educational," when they were actually devoted almost entirely to fundraising. Jones responded to the accusations by saying, "I'm not trying to pad my books. I'm trying to help people."
Continuing to follow its mission in spite of such distractions, FTC's relief efforts of the 1990s included sending food to Somalia to help children orphaned in the war there, and giving assistance to citizens of Jones's own home town following the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. FTC provided thermal underwear and steel-toed boots for rescue workers, meals for police, and funeral expenses for some of the families of the victims. Due to Jones's visibility on CNN and network television programs, donations to the organization shot upward, and it took in $6.7 million in extra goods and cash in the aftermath of the bombing.
FTC's international relief efforts continued in the latter half of the 1990s, and included providing aid in 1999 in Kosovo to victims of the war there, and in Turkey to victims of an earthquake. New controversy erupted that same year when the chief of FTC's 274,000-square-foot Nashville warehouse and six of his staff were videotaped by a local television station taking boxes of donated goods home with them. The items included clothing, shoes, blankets, food, and videos. Jones subsequently fired the entire staff of the facility and installed surveillance cameras and other safeguards. The next year FTC also discovered that its chief financial officer had forged signatures and supplied inaccurate financial documents, and he too was dismissed, with the organization's 1998 and 1999 years subsequently re-audited. At this time, FTC was taking in more than $200 million in donations.
Abandoned Baby Center Opening in Kenya in 2001
Once again moving beyond the controversy, in August 2001 FTC opened its first Abandoned Baby Center in Nairobi, Kenya, to provide a home for babies and toddlers left homeless by the AIDS epidemic. On September 11, 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Jones (who happened to be in New York City that fateful morning) provided relief for survivors as he had during the Oklahoma City bombing. A few months later, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, FTC supplied food, blankets, tents, and sleeping bags to citizens of that country who were living in refugee camps.
In 2003 FTC launched a partnership with the National Basketball Association Players Association, in which players would participate in food distribution events. Also during the year, the organization received the largest donation of powdered milk ever given by the U.S. government, and purchased a distribution warehouse in Elkhart, Indiana, which was FTC's fifth such facility, along with others in Oklahoma, Tennessee, California, and New Jersey. In addition to warehouse space, it would house administrative offices and a nutrition research center, and generate at least 100 jobs. The building had been sold to FTC for $1 by Bayer Diagnostics.
During the 2003 fiscal year, FTC distributed 54 million pounds of food and 15 million pounds of other items to agencies in all 50 U.S. states, in both urban and rural environments. Subsidiary FTC Transportation operated 55 semi tractor-trailers to distribute goods around the country. FTC now operated field offices in more than a dozen foreign countries including Romania, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Japan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. During the year they distributed more than 14 million pounds of food and other supplies to children and families in 62 countries. FTC's medical teams treated almost 46,000 patients in medical, eye, and dental clinics, and dispensed more than 58,000 prescriptions for medicine and eyeglasses. Other FTC activities abroad over the years, which had reached a total of 109 countries, included constructing fish hatcheries, protecting fish breeding grounds, building model farms and agricultural training centers, establishing micro-loan programs, and initiating water sanitation projects.
Working with many major corporations, in 2003 FTC received donations of more than $480 million worth of surplus food, medicine, clothing, and other goods. An additional $80 million came in the form of cash, which when added to more than $11 million in other donations totaled more than $575 million in funding. FTC gave out $333 million worth of childcare, food, and medical services, $5.4 million in disaster relief, and $165.5 million in education and community development. An additional $52.1 million was spent on fundraising, along with $15.1 million that went to administration and general overhead. A total of 88 percent of expenditures went to program services, according to FTC.
In 2004 the organization's work continued with distribution of care boxes and food to soldiers in Iraq, in the wake of the U.S. war that drove Saddam Hussein from power. Families of soldiers in the United States also were offered assistance.
After a quarter-century in operation, Feed The Children, Inc. had grown into the 19th largest charity in the United States, supplying some of the world's neediest and most vulnerable citizens with food, medical care, and other basic necessities. Despite several controversies, the organization's donations and assistance continued to increase each year.
Principal Subsidiaries: FTC Transportation, Inc.
Principal Competitors: Save The Children; Christian Children's Fund; Second Harvest.
- Belsie, Laurent, "One Man's Battle to Feed Hungry," Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 1988, p. 4.
- Clolery, Paul, "Feed The Children Beats Nashville Solicitation Ordinance," Non-Profit Times, May 1, 2002, p. 4.
- "Feed The Children Battles Controversy," Christianity Today, December 6, 1999, p. 23.
- Ford, Brian, "CPA Faces Fraud Allegations," Tulsa World, July 19, 2001.
- "Garth Starts Charity Drive," Billboard, August 29, 1992, p. 29.
- Gubernick, Lisa, "'I Can't Be Everywhere,'" Forbes, September 26, 1994, p. 124.
- Herrick, Thaddeus, "Oklahoma City Tragedy; Charity's High Visibility, Tactics Debated," Houston Chronicle, May 21, 1995, p. 21.
- Kissell, Margaret Rutledge, "Feed The Children Helps Feed Hundreds of Valley's Hungry," Dayton Daily News, September 30, 2004, p. B1.
- McCall, Ashley, "Michiana Welcomes Feed The Children," South Bend Tribune, January 6, 2004, p. A1.
- Schultheiss, Sally, "Melanie's Care Packages," In Style, July, 1998, p. 124.
- Sinclair, Matthew, "Mismanaged Financials," Non-Profit Times, December, 2000, p. 1.
- Spohn, Gustav, "Charity Faces Scrutiny Over Budget Claims," St. Petersburg Times, December 26, 1992, p. 4E.
- Stevenson, Douglas, "One Million Pounds of Food Trucked Here for the Hungry," Washington Post, September 6, 1987, p. C1.
- Yarrow, Andrew L., "2 Charities for Poor Children Battle Over a Name," New York Times, January 2, 1992, p. 5B.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.68. St. James Press, 2005.