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The History of the Food Program

What If food program girls enjoying a holiday mealThe What If? Foundation, in partnership with members of the Ti Plas Kazo community of Port-au-Prince, has been providing hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Haiti’s capital for over 14 years. Each child who comes to the food program receives a plate of fresh vegetables, rice, beans, and sometimes a small piece of meat or fish.

The food program was launched on Sunday, March 19, 2000.  Two hundred children gathered at the St. Clare’s rectory for the program’s first hot meals of rice, beans, vegetables, and a small piece of chicken. The next week, almost 400 children were fed, and the program gradually expanded. After the 2004 coup d’etat, the program started serving meals 2 days a week. By early January, 2010, the cooking team was serving up to 1,500 meals/day, every Monday – Friday. Then the catastrophic earthquake struck on January 12, 2010, and the demand for food aid became acute.

With great courage and determination, our partners prepared and served thousands of meals each weekday after the earthquake. Over 750,000 meals to hungry children and some adults were served in 2010. (Click here to read more about our earthquake relief efforts.)

The number of children and adults coming to be fed gradually decreased, as people found ways to rebuild their lives. By September 2011, when the food program had to relocate to a new, temporary location, the Na Rive cooking team was serving an average of 1,200 meals each weekday. (More information about the relocation of the food program is included below.)

Our Haitian partners continue to do all they can to support the local economy and agricultural self-sufficiency in Haiti. They buy all the food and supplies for the food program locally, from farmers and small distributors.

The Food Program Relocation in September 2011

In September 2011, our Haitian partners received word that they needed to move the food program out of the St. Clare’s rectory building where it had been housed for more than 11 years, as the new priest of St. Clare’s wanted to use the rectory for other purposes. Thankfully, the cooking team quickly and effectively worked together to come up with a plan for relocating the kitchen that ensured children would continue to be fed.

They moved most of what was in the rectory kitchen, including the 7 huge stoves, into a shelter they built on the side of a cook’s house, not far from the property we purchased in 2010. They then set up a system for transporting the food to the property, where they have built a covered seating area under which the children are able to sit to receive their meals. Despite the challenges of the move, the food program continues to serve an average of 1,200 meals each weekday.

“The best part of my job is seeing the faces of the children,” said Luxama, one of the cooks for the food program, when a visitor spoke with her. After noting that the day’s meal would be the only meal of the day for many of the children she added: “They’re so excited when they have a chance to actually eat something.”

The commitment and hard work of our Haitian partners has allowed the food program to continue uninterrupted for more than 14 years, through hurricanes, an economic embargo, a coup d’etat, and then the earthquake of January 2010.  The What If? Foundation continues to be the only source of financial support for the food program.

We are so grateful that the generosity of our donors has allowed us to help so many in and around the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood through difficult times. Your donations are needed to ensure we can continue to provide critical food and educational opportunities to the children in Haiti.

Visit our gallery to see photos of the food program, and visit our Updates page for the latest news.

The following shows the food program in action:

What If? Foundation founder Margaret Trost reflects on a 2009 trip to Haiti and the food program: