Inspired by faith, entrepreneur Richard Lackey has turned his expertise in hedge fund management and emergency response into a passion for fighting food insecurity and malnutrition across the planet.
But instead of asking for donations to feed the hungry, Lackey founded the World Food Bank with a team of supply chain, investment and agricultural engineering experts dedicated to increasing the efficiency and production of subsistence farmers in developing countries through education. and expanded markets.
The organization is not intimidated by the current estimate of nearly 830 million malnourished people in the world, he said. “We can eliminate hunger globally by helping small farmers produce more food and, in the process, help the world’s poorest farmers escape cycles of deep poverty to become middle-income producers. “
This vision derives from a combination of investment, market knowledge and the belief that personal talent can be used for a greater good, he said.
Lackey’s service as a paramedic after college landed him jobs in disaster relief management and hedge fund management. He has also consulted for start-up firms and written books on investment management and technical analysis of financial markets.
Along the way, Lackey said, he developed an interest in the problem of hunger, including the challenge of distributing healthy food to areas affected by natural disasters. He credited this in part to growing up in Georgia and the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Charles Stanley was his pastor.
“Growing up in the Souththere was an idea that we can overcome anything if we can gather around the table as a family,” he said.
“We buy dry foods and seal them in Mylar bags that keep for 15 to 20 years, and we store large volumes of them outside of disaster-prone areas.”
This attitude translated into a project with friends in the tech industry to develop a more efficient system for quickly delivering food to victims of natural disasters. “We buy dry foods and seal them in Mylar bags that keep for 15 to 20 years, and we store large volumes of them outside of disaster-prone areas.”
The approach pays for itself, he added. “FEMA pays for the product and we use that money to make more.”
The scope expanded to parts of African and Middle Eastern countries where Lackey worked with the UN World Food Program to modernize food storage and distribution. This work, in turn, fueled a sense of a calling to use his global business relationships and knowledge of markets to fight the systemic causes of hunger full-time.
“It was one of those times where you know God is speaking to you,” he explained.
But the World Food Bank founded then in 2015 is not the typical non-profit, non-governmental organization that raises money to feed the hungry around the world. Instead, it operates as an investment bank that markets long-life foods as its primary commodity.
“We want to buy and store surplus commodities to help stabilize prices and create a more stable agricultural environment” in developing countries, he said.
Lackey’s organization also leverages his experience in equity, futures and options markets to connect global food exchanges with agricultural operations in regions chronically plagued by hunger. “Food exists. It’s just not where it needs to be,” he noted.
“Food exists. It’s just not where it needs to be.”
And where it exists, its quality is usually poor due to unhealthy soil and seeds available to local producers, he said. The World Food Bank partners with providers of high-quality seeds and other products to prevent pests, weeds and other traditional blocks to sustainable crops.
The organization seeks to implement further sustainable solutions to hunger by brokering global partnerships between small-scale farmers, governments, food processors and all aspects of supply chain operations to stabilize under-served and under-produced markets.
Educating small-scale farmers on better growing and harvesting techniques has been another approach of the World Food Bank. Lackey said these operations are typically unwilling to take risks because of a lack of resilience: “It’s one of the reasons why the quantity and quality of food is so much lower with small farms.”
To counter this trend, the organization facilitates practical agricultural education for farmers and provides training for local government extension workers and agronomists.
And the organization has undertaken television and radio broadcasts to promote improved farming methods.
“We acquired a media company in Kenya to offer farm renewal shows where experts come to demonstrate practices that can transform their operations,” Lackey said. Viewership has grown from 8 million to 12 million since we bought the media company and we are looking to expand across Africa.”
Lackey and his team are also looking to expand the financing available to small-scale farmers in developing countries by partnering with microfinance groups to provide affordable loans to farmers as their operations become more profitable.
There are already signs The comprehensive, farm-centered approach to tackling global hunger is working, he added. “We’re now at the point where we’ve moved 1.6 million from poverty to middle income, and within seven years we want to help 100 million people from poverty to middle income.”
To do that, the World Food Bank is looking to grow its partnerships with people of faith in finance, technology and media, Lackey said.
“We’re using this as a platform to build relationships and ultimately share Jesus. We need more people from a faith perspective who understand the place of media and where Africa is going to come into this work with us.”
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