Sporting white Service Day T-shirts, more than 150 young single adults from the Salt Lake area worked diligently to assemble and package 900 boxes of food at the Bishops’ Central Storehouse on Thursday, Feb. 8.
The massive service project, to be distributed through the Utah food pantry Tabitha’s Way, commemorated the 10th anniversary of collaboration among The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Nations World Food Programme — the world’s largest hunger-relief organization — and World Food Program USA.
Surveying the sea of activity, Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, was impressed by the smiles on the young adults’ faces as they worked to bless the lives of people they would likely never meet.
“They exude joy,” Bishop Budge said. “You think of going out to work, it’s a hard thing, but you can tell they are feeling the spirit of service, which is the Light of Christ that they feel.”
The service project came during a week in which Church leaders met with leadership from World Food Programme and the World Food Program USA. They also celebrated a decade of collaboration by announcing the contribution of $4.3 million — $2 million from the Church and an additional $2.3 million from World Food Program USA — to jointly fund an emergency response hub in the Caribbean.
President Jeffrey R. Holland, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Ulisses Soares, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, made a brief appearance during the service project to greet the young people and leaders of the World Food Programme and World Food Program USA, to whom they express appreciation for the camaraderie and opportunity to serve together.
“To have the [acting] president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles take time to come out to the bishops’ storehouse is incredible. It shows his love and commitment to caring for those in need,” Bishop Budge said. “And then to have a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Soares, for them to take the time to come out to greet the young people and personally express our appreciation to the World Food Programme, I think was very important.”
Collaborating since 2014
The Church and the World Food Programme have collaborated in service since 2014. Program leaders toured the Church’s welfare operations in Salt Lake City in 2019, and the two organizations worked together to fill hunger gaps during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They recently worked together to reduce food insecurity in Liberia, a country still recovering from a 14-year civil war (1989-2003) that destroyed national infrastructure and basic social services.
The Church gave $32 million to the World Food Programme to help provide food and critical assistance to 1.6 million people in nine countries in September 2022. Additionally, the World Food Programme has used Church funds to provide food and other critical assistance to provide humanitarian aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, including mothers and young children, in 46 countries.
The World Food Programme reports that 333 million people face acute food insecurity today, with 47 million on the brink of famine.
Bishop Budge said the World Food Programme is one of the Church’s most “trusted organizations.” As a result of working together, an estimated 6 million people have not gone hungry. He expressed gratitude for many Church members who make a difference by generously and quietly contributing tithes and fast offerings.
“We know that if we donate, the money is going to get to the end of the row and get to those who need it most,” he said. “They have that logistical capability and experience. That means a lot to us. We want to put the money to use, we want to make sure it gets to those who need it the most. That’s why our partnership is so important.”
Barron Segar, president and CEO of the World Food Program USA, thanked the Church for contributing their volunteers and resources to bless countless lives. He could not think of another organization on the planet that over the last 10 years has impacted 6 million lives in 46 different countries.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is our most important partner. They are our first responders. When there is an emergency, they are the first ones to call,” he said. “We can’t do it without The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ... Fewer people are hungry today because of the Church and the World Food Programme.”
President Johnson and Sister Yee said the opportunity to collaborate with the World Food Programme has provided an opportunity to address the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children who are malnourished and hungry because of the pandemic, wars and natural disasters.
“World Food Programme has the boots on the ground to get resources to places where people are suffering. We certainly have the men and women power — we saw it today in this service project — we have the human resources, as well as the financial resources to collaborate with them to get the work done, one by one by one,” President Johnson said.
Sister Yee commended the young single adults for their willingness to serve with the project.
“All different backgrounds, all different studies, work and walks of life, but yet they are united by the same feeling in the heart to give, and they want to be a part of something important,” she said. “You can feel the energy here today, and it’s beautiful as everyone comes together. It multiplies the effort.”
‘This is what I live for’
Sterling Jenkins, 22, of the Lehi YSA 1st Ward in the Jordan River YSA Stake, contributed to the service project by working at a furious pace to apply a plastic wrap around boxes stacked on a pallet for shipping. It’s a skill he developed as a Church service missionary.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” he said as he wiped perspiration from his forehead. “I just love to serve, honestly. We’re helping people out, people I will never know. This is what I live for.”
Eliza Stewart, 20, from the Bonneville YSA Ward, helped by assembling boxes that others filled with cereal, canned goods and other basic food products. She felt like she was making a difference.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “It’s super satisfying to see so many peers and people my age come together to help people in a cause bigger than themselves.”
Tate Keddington, 17, a member of the Woods Cross JustServe Club, stayed busy placing bags of dry milk in boxes along the assembly line.
“It feels good to come serve people,” he said. “It’s awesome to see a bunch of people working together. Everyone does their part and it just helps, you know, unify everyone and get the job done faster and efficiently.”
Kim Josse, 29, also from the Jordan River YSA Stake, appreciated feeling needed.
“We need to feel like we’re needed, and we want meaning, and we want to be able to impact and help people. That’s what fulfills us,” she said. “So opportunities like this are awesome to be able to go out and do that, fulfill that need, because we have more time. A lot of us don’t have kids, and we want that opportunity to go out and serve in a way that other people can’t.”
Collaboration in the Caribbean
The three organizations marked 10 years of service together by jointly funding an emergency response hub in Barbados that will be completed this summer.
The project, which will enable more agile disaster response by World Food Programme and others throughout the Caribbean, was made possible by a donation of more than $4 million between the Church and World Food Program USA.
“We are honored and grateful to celebrate 10 years of collaboration with the World Food Programme,” Bishop Gérald Caussé, the Church’s presiding bishop, said in a news release. “Together, we have been able to help millions in need. These efforts reflect our dedication to the two great commandments. We express our love for God by extending our help to His children, regardless of location or background.”
The new hub will serve as a center for disaster relief coordination and materials pre-positioning in the Caribbean, a region where natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, droughts and volcanic eruptions occur often. Now when those disasters happen, emergency food, water and other supplies such as tarps, blankets, cots and hygiene kits stored in the warehouse can be more efficiently distributed to affected countries.
“We couldn’t imagine a better way to mark our 10th anniversary with the Church than to do what we do best — build on our powerful relationship to help communities in need,” Segar said. “We are truly humbled and grateful for the Church’s profound generosity and steadfast commitment during the past decade to help us end global hunger. The Church’s support has helped transform millions of lives, helping at-risk communities to become self-reliant and build food security against incredible odds.”
Lola Castro, World Food Programme’s regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean, called the new logistics hub a “pivotal step” to better disaster response across the Caribbean.
“WFP is deeply thankful to WFP USA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their crucial funding, reflecting our shared commitment to humanitarian aid and resilience,” Castro said.
Church humanitarian services
The Church’s most recent Caring for Those in Need annual report in 2022 outlined more than $1 billion in expenditures around the world, as well as 6.3 million hours volunteered and 3,692 humanitarian projects in 190 countries and territories.
The Church follows the admonition of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry and care for those in need. Humanitarian efforts relieve suffering, foster self-reliance and provide opportunities for service — giving assistance without regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality.
This humanitarian outreach is made possible by the generous donations and volunteerism of Latter-day Saints and friends of the faith.