Food companies, farm industry helping Haiti earthquake victims

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WOOSTER, Ohio — As thousands of devastated people in Haiti continue to search for family members and friends, and cope with looting frenzies and safety, American food companies and farmers are sending help.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12 disrupted food and water supplies into and within the nation, leaving scores of children and adults competing for whatever nutrition they can get.

Big-name donors

Among the American and global names to send help for nutrition — Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, Yum Brands (owners of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut), and even McDonald’s — all have pledged funds to provide emergency aid.

As of Jan. 15, American Red Cross estimated 50,000 Haitians have lost their lives during and after the massive quake, the largest Haiti has seen in more than a century. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are unearthed, and as infection and disease sickens survivors.

Seattle-based Christian Veterinary Mission has two veterinarians currently stationed in Haiti. Their most recent efforts have been to help rescue and uncover living bodies, and get them to hospitals, said Executive Director Kit Flowers.

People first

Until the situation improves, the focus will be on people, with animals next.

“You can’t go looking for animal care in the midst of a disaster,” he said.

Flowers described Haitian agriculture as subsistence-based, meaning individuals grow and gather enough food for themselves and their families.

Even though Haitians are determined and hardworking, an unstable government, poor economy and natural disasters have prevented most from growing enough food to be marketed outside their own country, Flowers said.

But he sees hope through the work of the member-veterinarians, and the many organizations offering help.

“I really appreciate that people are looking to Haiti with that eye that ‘we can’t give up, we need to keep trying,’” he said.

Hope for freedom

The tragedies of the past few days could eventually help bring more freedom and opportunity to this Caribbean nation, said Dennis Schlagel, executive director of The Fellowship of Christian Farmers International.

“The real missing ingredient in Haiti is the freedom to develop their economy,” he said, adding that with freedom from their leaders, Haitians have potential to develop sustainable forms of agriculture, including dairy cows and goats.

Schlagel said Ohio would be like Haiti, if not for the order it has, and the freedoms that order provides to the state.

“In Ohio, if you don’t have law and order and freedom to farm and liberty to own land and grow a business, you’re just like Haiti,” he continued.

Currently, Christian Farmers is mostly focused on relief from Hurricane Ike, in Texas, and recent flood damage in North Dakota. But long-term plans will likely be made to help Haitians rebuild, Schlagel predicted.

“What’s needed is the experience of farmers who know how to develop a dairy herd and do it in a very subsistence way,” he said. “We aren’t going to go in there and set up a 400-cow dairy.”

Still planning

But like charities around the world, Christian Farmers is still in the deciding phase of how to respond, largely because of the immediate concerns in Haiti, which limit efforts to search and rescue.

If individuals want to serve Haiti now, he suggests they contact Samaritan’s Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org), a volunteer relief organization that helps match participants’ skills of service with the best mission.

“Like others from around the world, we’re shocked and saddened by the devastation in Haiti and want to help,” said Gary Mickelson, media director for Tyson Foods. “We donate food to hunger relief efforts on a regular basis and over the years have also been active in disaster relief, providing food, water and financial support.”

Tyson is matching employee donations up to $100,000 for Haiti relief efforts. Contributions will go to the Salvation Army, which has personnel on-site and is preparing 1 million ready-to-eat meals to send to Haiti.

Where to send

Experts advise the best support is money given to accredited organizations and charities. They have the professional contacts to know which items are truly needed, and can coordinate supplies and see that they are delivered.

Some of the organizations accepting donations online include:

The United Nations’ World Food Programme, accessible at www.wfp.org/donate/haiti.

American Red Cross: http://american.redcross.org/site/Donation

Action Against Hunger: www.actionagainsthunger.org.

Food companies & Haiti relief:

Tyson Foods is matching employee donations up to $100,000 for Haiti relief efforts. Contributions will go to the Salvation Army, which has personnel on-site and is preparing 1 million ready-to-eat meals to send to Haiti.

Hormel Foods is matching employee donations up to $25,000 for relief efforts, with all contributions going to the American Red Cross.

ConAgra Foods Foundation, a long-time Red Cross supporter, said it will give an additional $100,000 to the International Red Cross Relief Fund for aid to Haiti.

Cargill is making an initial corporate donation of $50,000 to long-time Cargill partners CARE and the World Food Programme. In Minneapolis, Cargill volunteers will be packaging 20,000 meals on Jan. 18 for the nonprofit Kids Against Hunger, which will be sent directly to people in Haiti. Cargill volunteers will package an additional 30,000 meals over the next month.

McDonald’s Corp. and its franchisee Arcos Dorados each will contribute $500,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross to be used for its disaster relief efforts. Arcos Dorados, which operates nearly 1,700 McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America, said it expects to generate an additional $500,000 in funds by donating 50 cents for each Big Mac sandwich sold from Jan. 16-22.

Yum Brands, owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said it is directing $500,000 to Haiti from its World Hunger Relief program launched in 2007. Yum Brands Foundation also will match Yum employee donations up to $500,000. Funds raised will go to the United Nations World Food Programme and other relief programs.

– The Wal-Mart Foundation pledged $500,000 to Red Cross emergency relief efforts in Haiti and is sending pre-packaged food kits worth $100,000 to Haiti at the request of Red Cross.

Publix Super Markets Charities said it is donating $100,000 to the Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti.

Dairy Farmers of America has donated more than 4,500 cases of Sport Shake to the relief efforts. In addition, the DFA Cares Foundation will make a monetary contribution to further support relief and recovery efforts. Sport Shake, which is a shelf-stable, dairy-based protein drink, will be delivered to Haiti through Convoy of Hope, a charitable organization based in Springfield, Mo., that has infrastructure in place.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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