- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. Hungry people around the world eat because of Ray Buchanan.
Sometimes it's because of a deal he brokered. Or because of money he sweet-talked out of a middle-class church congregation or one rich guy. Sometimes it's because of a ruckus he raises with those who control international food programs.
The bottom line is that people eat, and that's what Mr. Buchanan cares about most.
It's what drives him to be a professional hunger fighter.
Mr. Buchanan works through Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based nonprofit group established in 1997. The group has five staff workers but distributed about $10 million in aid to nearly 20 countries last year. Its overhead costs have never exceeded 8 percent of its budget.
They rarely linger, hopping from Congo to El Salvador and then Afghanistan, pouring their efforts into the places with the hungriest people and the most need.
The need rarely eases. Disasters, drought, war and corruption force the world's poor into starvation as one crisis gives way to the next. The unfortunate cycle results in 24,000 deaths a day, at least half of them children, according to the World Food Program based in Rome.
"That's not only ridiculous," Mr. Buchanan said. "That's obscene."
In the past year, Stop Hunger Now delivered about $8 million in aid to Afghanistan, a country torn by war but also one where a hunger crisis had been building for years.
Access to the country was limited until recently, but the toppling of the Taliban regime allowed Mr. Buchanan and other relief workers to attend to the needs of an estimated 6 million to 8 million starving people.
For Mr. Buchanan, that meant being on the ground, scouting for groups with lean overhead costs and efficient distribution networks. He can't abide those who trade food for political dogma and eschews well-meaning devotees who proselytize by offering food to the starving.
Mr. Buchanan, an ordained United Methodist minister, is driven by what he considers a religious imperative.
"The thing about Christianity is you're supposed to be doing instead of talking about it," he said.
Former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall who began work in early August as the United States' ambassador to the U.N. food and agriculture agencies in Rome, said private groups such as Mr. Buchanan's are important tools to the World Food Program and other large, government-sponsored programs.
Stop Hunger Now's reach and budget have grown steadily. In the past five years, Mr. Buchanan has worked in about 45 countries.
His contacts and deal-making prowess helped him connect a relief group working in Haiti with the owners of a 40-foot freight container filled with surplus high-protein bars. The relief workers got $440,000 worth of food for $2,000.

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