From warehouse corner to US mega charity
Food For the Poor team members at its 40th anniversary celebration

Because of its name many do not know the extensive nature of the work carried out by Food For the Poor (FFP). Created 40 years ago by Ferdinand Mahfood and later joined by his brothers Sam, Joe, and Robin, FFP expanded into the largest relief organisation in the United States, serving 17 Caribbean and Latin American countries.

Yes, the organisation distributes tons of food to the poorest in the region, but it also carries out operations in construction, agriculture and fishing, education, food distribution, and medical services.

Here in Jamaica, the local organisation still has the guiding hands of second-generation Mahfoods: Andrew Mahfood, chairman, and William Mahfood, board director, with a 50-strong team led by Executive Director Kivette Silvera.

In the early stages, the FFP operation occupied a small corner of the Wisynco warehouse at White Marl in St Catherine, with about eight staff members. Through the first half of the 1980s, FFP expanded its scope and streamlined its distribution system. In addition to food, it began to ship medical supplies and equipment and educational materials. As the imports grew, the warehouse was relocated to bigger facilities at Third Street in Newport West.

Then, on September 12, 1988, disaster struck in the form of Hurricane Gilbert. The building was vandalised and looted, and operations were subsequently moved to the Laws Street Trade Training Centre in Kingston at an auditorium offered by Sister Mary Benedict Chung, who later served FFP as chairman and is currently director emerita.

Subsequently, lands were acquired in Ellerslie Pen, Spanish Town, a site now familiar to many as the headquarters of FFP Jamaica. In 2000 a second warehouse was built to accommodate food donated under an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

To mark their 40th Anniversary, FFP Jamaica has launched a 'Build Back the Love' campaign as homelessness continues to be a major challenge for the most vulnerable in Jamaica. Thanks to their generous donors, including BOOM and National Baking Company, they are adding to the stock of the thousands of houses already built for Jamaica's indigent families. As part of this campaign, FFP is also targeting a minimum of 400,000 people globally to donate $1,000, US$10, CAD$10, and £10 on their website at

The "FFP method" of helping those in need involves both direct liaison as well as coordinating with local churches and other charitable institutions to keep lines of supply as short and efficient as possible. The materially poor are served by local churches, clergy, and other charitable institutions that have been empowered and supplied with goods by FFP.

Beyond providing commodities and other items, FFP began to also support programmes providing agricultural assistance to independent farmers as well as teaching recipients how to raise livestock and develop small businesses — first in Jamaica and then in Haiti, beginning in 1989. More than 96 per cent of all donations go directly towards programmes that help the poor.

FFP's portfolio includes building starter homes for people in need who meet the stated requirements; building classroom facilities and providing other infrastructure assistance for schools across the island; working with fishing villages and other community organisations; and supporting Jamaica's continued musical and cultural prowess through providing musical training for youngsters.

At their 40th anniversary service held recently at the Stella Maris Church, Father Richard Brown lauded the work of FFP, and Chairman Andrew Mahfood thanked the board, management, and staff for their dedication. He remarked on their islandwide efforts to assist the indigent with food and care items throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and pledged to continue the organisation's relief programmes for the poorest among us.

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person and FFP's board directors are some of the busiest: Vice-Chair Chris Bicknell; company secretary/director Debbie-Ann Gordon Crawford; directors William Mahfood and Professor Michael Lee. It is a privilege to serve with them.

Special Olympians return triumphant

Special Olympian Sheneel Williams receives an award and gift from Digicel Foundation patron Denis O'Brien.

Jamaica and her Caribbean neighbours made their mark at the recent Special Olympics Berlin World Games. They have been sponsored by Digicel for both the winter and summer Special Olympics since 2003. Last Wednesday Jamaica's 47 athletes, who won 18 medals, were feted at the Digicel Colm Delves Building in downtown Kingston and lauded by Digicel founder and chairman Denis O'Brien. He thanked the Government of Germany, represented at the event by Ambassador Jan Hendrik van Thiel for their kindness to the athletes, which extended to health care and providing glasses for team member Garth Wint.

"Jamaica has the most outstanding heritage in sport, for the size of the country, anywhere in the world," enthused O'Brien. "You know, we are so fortunate here in Jamaica to have one of the best sports administrators and sports administration team in Lorna Bell [now Special Olympics CEO for the Caribbean] and all the colleagues that she works with in Special Olympics Jamaica. The way the programme has been developed in front of our eyes over the last 20 years is absolutely terrific and compliments to the Chairman Aldrick McNab."

Family members were also lauded "because you know also you have made sacrifices to see your sons and daughters reach success on the global stage". It was good to catch up with Special Olympics Jamaica CEO Coleridge "Roy" Howell and volunteers Patricia Lue Chin, one of Jamaica's finest physiotherapists, and Beulah Bartholomew, family coordinator.

Reggae Girlz and Sunshine Girls Magic

Four years ago, our happy band of Jamaican supporters travelled from Rheims to Lyons in France to cheer on our Reggae Girlz as they qualified for their first-ever Women's Football World Cup. Let me tell you, Havana Marguerite Solaun's goal brought us to our feet screaming, our black, green, and gold waving in the stands, never mind that Australia eventually triumphed.

The JFF patriarchy was staunched this time around, thanks to FIFA's strict instructions, though there were still financial difficulties. It is press time ahead of Sunday morning's first game against France. Since 2019 our footballers have risen to great heights, particularly Captain Kadija "Bunny" Shaw and we look forward to a solid outing.

Our Sunshine Girls, led by Captain Jhaniel Fowler, will begin their campaign for the Vitality Netball World Cup in South Africa on Friday, July 28. Again, despite their number four spot in the world, they had to be pounding the pavement to find sponsors. Fortunately, the sports ministry and Sports Development Foundation (SDF) committed $20 million and sponsors stepped up. Kudos to lead sponsors Beryllium Limited, National Baking Company, J Wray and Nephew, and Seprod Limited.

Meanwhile, as our athletes continue to burn up the track and dominate on the field, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has been busily creating new meet records, first in Switzerland last Thursday, while Shericka Jackson and Megan Tapper are wowing their fans.

Jean Lowrie-Chin is executive chair of PROComm and CCRP. Send comments to

Jean Lowrie-Chin

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