BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - The founder of Feed My Starving Children, a Christian-based organization that has packed and sent more than 2 billion meals to starving people, died Tuesday, Nov. 13. Richard Proudfit was 88.
A St. Paul native, Proudfit was working as a businessman in 1982 when he visited Honduras on a medical relief team to help the country recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fifi-Orlene.
It was there that he witnessed the suffering brought about by starvation, an experience that would change the course of his life.
During that trip, he said he heard God telling him, “If you’ve seen my starving children, go and feed them.” This would become both the name and the mission of Feed My Starving Children, which has served 70 countries. He served as CEO of the organization from 1987 to 1998.
His original concoctions were too rich for starving children. So, working with nutritionists from General Mills, Cargill and other companies, Proudfit helped develop an original food formula to provide a cost-effective, nutrition-packed meal that could be used across different cultures, including those that don’t eat meat.
The meals, called MannaPacks, cost 22 cents each and are made up of rice, soy powder, dried veggies and a vitamin powder. The dried food is cooked in water to become a satisfying and nutritional meal.
Don Martin, the congregational council president of Incarnation Lutheran Church in North Oaks, has worked with FMSC for 15 years. The church fills a semi-truck every year of packed meals. He has also been on the Minnesota Council for 12 years, a regional advisory board for FMSC.
“The original concept of creating an opportunity for people to actually pack food and have that food transported to a place where it’s desperately needed and then see the result of that food is a life-changing experience,” Martin said. “That was his original conception.”
Martin said Proudfit’s business plan allowed the volunteers to benefit from the experience, making it easy to do, accomplishing a lot in a little amount of time and being able to see the result of their work helping others. Those interested can accompany the food to its final destination and help serve it to the children, as Martin has done in Haiti.
At a recent gala for FMSC this month, Martin said the company set a new goal to pack 1 million meals a day, or 365 million meals per year.
“It’s astounding the growth and the success and the innovation that they continue to have,” he said of the organization. “He was that seed that got all this started.”
In 2012, Proudfit won the Jefferson Award for public service, an award also given to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, actor Paul Newman and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.