Other FAQs

Questions about Hunger

What do you mean by hunger?

The Hunger Project focuses on chronic, persistent hunger as distinct from the acute famine emergencies that make the news. Less than 10 percent the world’s undernourished people are hungry because of famine (FAO 2010).

Chronic, persistent hunger is not due merely to lack of food. It occurs when people lack opportunity to earn enough income, to be educated and gain skills, to meet basic health needs and have a voice in the decisions that affect their community.

How many people are hungry?

For the most up-to-date facts on hunger, see our Knowledge Center: Facts About Hunger and Poverty.

Who are the hungry?

Almost all of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries. In Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 578 million people are suffering from chronic hunger; in Sub-Saharan Africa 239 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million; in the Near East and North Africa 42 million (FAO 2010).

Most hungry people, 80 percent, live in rural areas. More than 60 percent are women, and 18 percent are children under five (Pinstrup-Anderson 2007).

Why don’t you distribute food to hungry people?

The Hunger Project does not distribute food because food aid is not a sustainable solution to world hunger.

Although there are emergency situations in which food aid is the difference between life and death, more than 90 percent of the world’s hungry people are chronically undernourished (FAO 2010). For them, hunger is a daily, sometimes life-long, reality. People living with persistent hunger require and deserve a sustainable solution based on self-reliance.

Food aid is not only insufficient for combating world hunger, some development experts argue that it can actually cause harm. If poorly managed, distribution of food can destabilize local prices and undermine local production and trade, which are critical for local agricultural development and long-term food security.

The Hunger Project addresses the root causes of hunger and poverty using a methodology that is affordable, replicable and sustainable. Our methodology emphasizes rural development and self-reliance. It enables women and men to eradicate persistent hunger in their communities, and makes them more resilient so that they can cope with famine or other emergencies as they arise.

Why do you focus on rural areas?

The Hunger Project invests in rural development because it is the point of highest leverage for ending hunger and extreme poverty.

Currently, 70 percent of the people living in poverty reside in rural areas. Even in the context of rapid urbanization, it is projected that rural areas will continue to have the highest rates of poverty until the year 2040 (World Development Report 2008).

Throughout the world, the conditions faced by the rural poor are far worse than those faced by the urban poor. They lack access to basic resources like clean water and sanitation, education, health care, transport, and communications. They have lower life expectancies and less voice in government (Khan 2001).

Experts have concluded that investing in rural development is a critical precondition for ending hunger and extreme poverty in the world (United Nations 2003; Båge 2004; von Braun et al 2003; Sachs, UN News Centre 2002).

Agricultural development in rural areas functions as an engine for food security, economic growth, multi-sector development, and poverty reduction, benefiting both rural and urban communities (von Braun et al 2003 and Båge 2004).

For all of these reasons, The Hunger Project concentrates its efforts within the rural developing world.

Isn’t hunger just a consequence of overpopulation?

Studies show that rapid population growth does not cause hunger. Rather, both hunger and rapid population growth are consequences of the same social conditions: poverty and inequality (Moore Lappé et al 1998).

The Hunger Project addresses these root causes of hunger by mobilizing people to be self-reliant, empowering women, and strengthening local government.

Questions about The Hunger Project

What does The Hunger Project do?

The Hunger Project is a global non-profit organization that carries out its mission of ending hunger in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America through three essential activities: mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance, empowering women as key change agents, and forging effective partnerships with local government.

How does The Hunger Project choose in which countries it will work?

The Hunger Project only establishes a program in a country when: (a) the country has sufficient peace and commitment to democratic process that a people-centered approach can be sustained; (b) we are invited by, and have access to, top-level leadership such that our successes in the country can influence government; (c) the country is one with a significantly large population living in absolute poverty; and (d) we have enough resources to ensure that, once we start, we can stay the course.

With all the problems here at home, why should I be concerned with hunger overseas?

The problems we face, both at home and internationally, are increasingly global. Issues such as global warming, environment, disease, war and political instability are issues that ignore borders and affect us all.

In addition, The Hunger Project is committed to ending world hunger as an expression of global citizenship, global partnership and global responsibility. We consider that hunger exists not as a local or national problem, but as a global problem. All of us have a responsibility to create a world where all people have the chance to lead lives free from hunger.

You describe your strategies as “women-centered.” What about the men?

There is overwhelming evidence — and our own experience has shown us — that the end of world hunger cannot be achieved if gender inequality persists. We believe that an essential part of ending hunger must be to cause society-wide change toward gender equality. Women bear the major responsibility for meeting basic needs, yet are systematically denied the resources, freedom of action and voice in decision-making to fulfill that responsibility.

Our programs aim to achieve gender equality by empowering women to be key change agents, first and foremost. Men participate in our programs and are an important part of this process, as a change in their mindset is needed for this societal transformation as well. Whether working with groups of men or women, or all together, a focus on women’s leadership is critical to achieving gender equality and the end of hunger and poverty.

Where do my contributions go? How much goes towards overhead?

Your contributions enable The Hunger Project to mobilize communities, and build the capacities of women, men and children, so that they can end their own hunger and poverty.

Some of your money goes to fundraising and general administration. We are committed to spending less than 25 percent on overhead, which includes fundraising and administration. In 2010, 83 percent of our income went directly to programs, while 17 percent went toward fundraising, management and general. This achievement has helped us to meet the top standards of charity watchdog agencies such as GuideStar, the Better Business Bureau and the American Institute of Philanthropy. Read more financial information on our FAQs page.

Can my development organization apply for grants from The Hunger Project?

No. All funds raised by The Hunger Project are utilized for the work of The Hunger Project. However, The Hunger Project is always interested in partnering and collaborating with like-minded organizations. Please contact us with any questions regarding partnerships and collaborations.

Where do I find out about job, internship and volunteer opportunities?

Visit the Get Involved section of our website.

How do I arrange to have someone from The Hunger Project speak at an event?

Visit the Contact Us section of our website.

What is The Hunger Project’s History?

The Hunger Project was founded in 1977 by several individuals who wanted to raise awareness and political will so that worldwide hunger could be ended. These founders included Werner Erhard, John Denver, Bob Fuller, Joan Holmes, Dana Meadows and Roy Prosterman. None of the founders, save Joan Holmes who sits on The Hunger Project’s Global Board of Directors, are involved in the present-day Hunger Project.

Now, more than 30 years later, The Hunger Project is a very different organization from when it was first founded. While we find our roots in education and advocacy efforts, we now focus our energies on on-the-ground programs throughout the developing world which mobilize communities and enhance and build the capacities of women, men and children to end their own hunger and poverty.

Why are there criticisms about The Hunger Project’s past?

One of The Hunger Project’s founders was Werner Erhard, a controversial figure who was part of the 1970s “human potential movement” and the founder of est (Erhard SeminarsTraining). Some critics of Mr. Erhard and those companies that are often identified with him (e.g. Landmark Education) inaccurately associate the current-day Hunger Project with Mr. Erhard. Although he was a founder of The Hunger Project, he has not been associated with The Hunger Project for more than two decades, and the organization has no ties to Mr. Erhard or his interests. The Hunger Project has evolved into a United Nations accredited non-governmental organization, which has received recognition from top charity watchdog agencies.


Båge, Lennart. “Rural development: key to reaching the Millennium Development
Goals,” IFAD: March 2004, http://www.ifad.org/events/op/2004/mdg.htm.

FAO, WFP. “The State of Food Insecurity in the World”. New York: FAO, 2010.

Khan, Mahmood Hasan. Rural Poverty in Developing Countries. Washington
D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2001.

Moore Lappé, Frances, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset, with Luis Esparza. World Hunger: 12 Myths, 2nd Edition. Grove/Atlantic and Food First Books, Oct. 1998.

Pinstrup-Anderson, Per, “Still Hungry,” Scientific American. September 2007.

UN News Centre. “At UN food summit, economist Jeffrey Sachs urges more investment in agriculture,” June 2002, www.fao.org/worldfoodsummit/english/newsroom/news/6385-en.html.

United Nations. An Integrated Approach to Rural Development – Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council. New York: United Nations, 2003.

von Braun, Joachim, M. S. Swaminathan,and Mark W. Rosegrant. Agriculture,
Food Security, Nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals. New York:
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2003.

World Development Report. Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2008.