Prior to becoming CEO of Stop Hunger Now, Rod Brooks spent 16 years developing Exploris, a museum in downtown Raleigh dedicated to educating people about the connection between cultures, people and current events around the globe. When a tsunami struck Southeast Asia in December 2004, the museum invited various organizations into the museum to raise money and awareness for the disaster relief effort, including Stop Hunger Now. It was here that Brooks met Ray Buchanan, founder of Stop Hunger Now, and the course of his life and work changed.
“I didn’t know much about the issue of hunger when I started working and volunteering with Stop Hunger Now,” says Brooks, “But at the time I was educating people about the world at Exploris and had the chance to move from that to making a difference and impacting people directly. That opportunity was so compelling to me because I’ve always had a strong sense of commitment to people around the world. The idea of being able to enhance their lives is what drew me to the organization.” At this time, Stop Hunger Now had just started meal packaging, the program that is now the organization’s core focus, expanding across the U.S. and the globe, to engage volunteers in fighting hunger.
“The great news is that we are winning the battle,” Brooks says, reflecting on the past ten years. “Over the last two decades the number of people who are suffering from hunger has decreased by over 200 million. That, during a time when population has increased, is incredible.” Because of this rapid progress, the world is now focused on ending hunger by the year 2030. “The world became aligned around that goal with the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals last fall,” Brooks explains, “Now, we as the people of the world and organizations who are a part of achieving that goal, all have one common result in mind, truly ending hunger.”
“We recognize that we will never accomplish our goal by just feeding people,” Brooks says, “That’s why it’s important for us to provide opportunities for people around the world to be directly involved in the fight to end hunger whether it be through meal packaging, skills-based volunteering, being involved in one of our sustainable development initiatives or traveling on a vision trip with us.”
The impact of Stop Hunger Now meals is evident by measurable outcomes such as increased weight, height and the body mass index (BMI) of beneficiaries. However, when thinking about the future of the organization, Brooks has additional plans in mind. “We recognize that there are other opportunities working with our partners to create sustainable community development initiatives which we are rolling out in a new program framework.” That program will include providing food and aid directly to recipients, in addition to improving food production systems, access to food and income generation within the communities where Stop Hunger Now works.
“How can we not feel responsible for every child in the world, regardless of where they live?” Brooks asks, “They are all our children to take care of and nourish. That is possible if we all work together.”