10 exceptional food-related charities

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DC Central Kitchen
This Washington-based nonprofit reclaims and recycles 3,000 pounds of food each day, making 4,500 meals and distributing them to 100 shelters, transitional homes, and rehab clinics throughout the DC area. It also runs a culinary job training program for people referred by the agencies it serves. Graduates of this program are placed in DCCK’s own full-service catering company or elsewhere in the food service industry; in this respect, it brings to mind Los Angeles’ Homeboy Industries and Streets International, both covered in September by Gourmet Live. The DC group is now spinning off a Campus Kitchens version of its model in tandem with high schools and colleges across the country.

Feeding America
An organization that Gourmet Live’s sibling site Epicurious.com partners with, Feeding America comprises a nationwide network of more than 200 member food banks. Together, they provide food assistance to more than 37 million people across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. If you prefer to find and fund an affiliate in your area, use Feeding America’s Food Bank Locator.

The Hunger Project
Founded in 1977, the Hunger Project advocates bottom-up, community-based solutions for food shortages and self-sufficiency in the developing world, specifically focusing on Africa, Bangladesh, India, and Latin America. It has aligned itself with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and cites examples of its related efforts online.

Oxfam America
This group, one of 15 affiliates worldwide, is devoted to creating “lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice.” It spans disaster relief, development, and policy advocacy and is active in more than 90 countries. In drought- and famine-stricken East Africa, Oxfam expects emergency conditions to continue well into 2012; its aim is to aid 3 million people and collaborate on lasting local systems to support agriculture and boost earnings. A global food-justice initiative, the GROW campaign, is dedicated to building a “better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive.”

Save the Children
True to its name, Save the Children defines its mission as “creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world.” Established in the U.S. in 1932, the group runs programs designed to improve children’s lives by alleviating poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease; it also provides disaster relief, responding recently to the floods in northern and eastern India and the east African famine. Quarterly results are posted on Save the Children’s site.

United States Fund for UNICEF
The U.S. Fund supports UNICEF’s humanitarian support of children—those most vulnerable to food deprivation—in more than 150 countries worldwide. According to a 2010 UNICEF report, child mortality rates worldwide are declining, yet more than 22,000 children under 5 die each day, and 70 percent of them die before the age of 1; “undernutrition,” among other causes UNICEF aims to prevent, is linked to about one third of child deaths.

If you’ll be giving to charity this holiday season—whether on your own or as a gift in the name of a friend, family member, or business associate—you can make your dollar go farthest by looking for high-performing charities. Also take advantage, when possible, of employer donation matches or sponsored matching funds being promoted on an organization’s site. And don’t underestimate the value of donating your time as a volunteer; sites like VolunteerMatch pair people with organizations in a few speedy clicks, according to location and interest. Because it is indeed a joy to give as well as receive, a holiday donation of any amount or kind is guaranteed to benefit both the donor and the recipient.

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