Standing with the Salt Lake City Temple as a backdrop, Sister Sharon Eubank spoke of a humanitarian partnership to a small crowd of reporters eagerly writing and pushing their microphones closer to capture the sound of her voice on Monday afternoon, Sept. 30.
Partnering with a group “as prestigious and as broad ranging as the World Food Program is very important to Latter-day Saint Charities for two reasons,” said Sister Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.
The first is that WFP has a presence in places where the Church has no members and would be difficult to access to perform humanitarian work.
The second is that they have similar goals and cooperate, even in areas with Church members, to solve food problems through programs that provide healthy food for kids at school and develop sustainable family gardens.
The small press conference featured Sister Eubank alongside Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and David M. Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program — a United Nations program that helps respond to emergencies worldwide and works to eliminate hunger.
Beasley’s visit to Salt Lake City comes after a more than four-year relationship between WFP and Latter-day Saint Charities. The press conference offered an opportunity for media to learn more about the organizations’ ongoing work.
During his short visit, Beasley toured the Bishops’ Central Storehouse and Welfare Square and had meetings with representatives from both Latter-day Saint Charities and Church Welfare Services.
“The World Food Program responds to famine — people in the most dire circumstances,” said Sister Eubank. “And we’ve done a lot of work with them.”
According to the WFP website, 2014 marked the beginning of an important ongoing partnership between WFP and Latter-day Saint Charities when the Church donated a large sum of money to help first with the Ebola crisis and then again in 2015 to help alleviate hunger during Ethiopia’s drought.
The two organizations also notably partnered three years ago when, while on vacation with family in Europe, then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, visited the World Food Program’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, on July 17, 2016, to donate $3 million from the Church. The money went toward helping with famine and food shortages among refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, Cameroon and Chad.
When presenting the check to the WFP director at the time, then-President Uchtdorf said, “There is a hunger in this world. Many people hunger for temporal, emotional, and spiritual food. As members of Jesus Christ’s Church we can help in all of these fields.”
Beasley became executive director of WFP in April 2017 and has, since that time, been working to drive “greater focus and attention to WFP’s work beyond emergency food assistance, highlighting the fact that longer term development can bring peace and stability to troubled regions,” according to his WFP biography.
Discussing problems like climate change is a major focus of both organization, Beasley explained. In some areas that face droughts or difficult changing climates, WFP has been able to help create sustainable ways to adapt agricultural production to the changing climate and allow populations in such areas to support themselves.
“The Church desires for people to be self-sustainable, and that fits right in with what we believe,” he said, noting their shared goals are part of why the organizations continue to partner together.
Speaking for the Presiding Bishopric, which oversees temporal affairs for the Church and its membership, Bishop Waddell said that the Church’s reach and resources are sometimes limited and that the partnership with the WFP allows them to help meet the needs of as many people as possible around the world.
“We’re learning where we can work together and find the synergism,” Bishop Waddell said.
Man-made conflict is another factor driving the increase of acute hunger around the world, Beasley explained.
“So to have a partner that understands that the most powerful weapon on earth is love — you know money is relevant, but to have a partner like this in times like this when there’s so much destabilization and so much conflict — to have a partner that understands reconciliation is really important,” Beasley said. “We’re learning from one another right now.”
The partnership between WFP and Latter-day Saint Charities is one that allows both organizations to help not only in times of emergency, but also to address some of the root causes of hunger, he said. Both organizations have goals to create self-reliant communities and populations that will eventually eliminate the need for emergency response and programs like the WFP, Beasly said.
The greatest thing that could happen would be for WFP to become unnecessary by bringing about self-reliance in fragile environments that would otherwise be exploited by extremists, Beasley said.
That is why they always go into areas with an exit strategy, he said. They want to become unnecessary.
“Latter-day Saint Charities works a lot on self-reliance solutions,” Sister Eubank told the Church News prior to Beasley’s visit. “But when there’s a disaster, when there’s a famine, when there’s a drought and nobody has any food and little children are dying every night, we have to do something immediately.”
That’s the beauty of the World Food Program, she said. They can go in and do something the same day they receive funds.
“That’s why the partnership is so important,” she said. And that’s why both organizations are excited to continue to work together and learn from one another moving forward.