Feeding God's Kids

Reprinted from Traditions, Summer 2019
August 7, 2019

Crea travels around the world as part of his work at Feed My Starving Children.

Don’t try to tell Mark Crea ’74 he’s achieved anything extraordinary.

Sure, as CEO of Feed My Starving Children {FMSC), he’s responsible for providing a million meals every day to children in desperate circumstances, but he’s quick to deflect any praise.

The glory, he says, all goes to God.

“They’re All God’s Kids”

Crea’s faith has always been an essential part of his life. He was born in St. Paul, one of five children. He received a Catholic education all the way through his degree at the University of St. Thomas. He took Matthew 25:40 to heart. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

“I thank God for Cretin — it sure had a big impact,” he said. Cretin gave him a solid foundation for how he looks at the world.

“It’s like kindergarten: treat people well, put others first. I think you can’t go wrong when you do that. My career has been blessed because I’ve worked for organizations that are making significant differences, improvements in the world and people’s lives,” he said. “By other standards, I could have success in the corporate world. But does it compare to how I feel doing this work? No way.”

FMSC was founded in 1987 by a Minneapolis businessman and began to grow reaching nearly 3 million meals in 1993. From 1993 to 2003 the organization stayed flat at 3 million meals per year. Nothing to scoff at, but that’s a tiny fraction of the 365 million meals a year they now produce.

What changed? He acknowledges that in those early years, FMSC just wanted to do “good work” but their meal production stayed flat.

Crea explained. “We were a Christian organization, but we didn’t talk about it. Christ was not the center of the organization. And then, the board rededicated the organization to Christ in the fall of ’03, and God began to bless us right away.”

Crea was hired in early 2004, but he denies the growth was because of him. “If I wasn’t here, God would’ve simply brought someone else. It’s crazy growth and no one but the Lord can take credit for it.”

By crazy growth, Crea really does mean crazy – FMSC has grown 38 percent annually for the last 15 years. They continued to grow even through the recession of 2008, when many nonprofits floundered or failed. They’ve grown from a staff of five to 322. From 3 million meals to 365 million meals.

They now have 1.3 million volunteers every year — including many CDH students, teams, and families.

He credits all of that to the rededication. The staff holds Bible studies regularly, put their faith front and center in their marketing, and pray over every shipment of food. Crea has implemented business practices like scorecards, KPI’s and regular reporting to monitor goals, but he takes far more pride in the culture that he’s built and all it’s allowed FMSC to achieve.

Save the Children One at a Time

The food packs donated by FMSC are engineered by food scientists to include all of the nutrients that a child needs to grow — they don’t just focus on getting them enough calories to survive, but make sure to include the vitamins and minerals that they need for healthy development.

That growth means that the kids are able to go to school, contribute to their families, and eventually grow up to be happy and healthy adults. In his 15 years working with FMSC, Crea has had the opportunity to watch the deathly skinny toddlers he met early on grow into thriving young adults.

“If you don’t have basic nutrition, there is no foundation to build upon,” he said. “Put a kid in school who hasn’t eaten in three days, who cares? They’re not going to learn. ”

When Crea first started with FMSC, the suffering in the communities he visited overwhelmed him. The degree of desperation felt insurmountable. That’s when he received a piece of advice that changed his life.

“All of these suffering children that you have seen, they will all die one at a time… so save them one at a time.”

Today, FMSC partners with organizations working on the ground in over 70 countries. They work together to create a supportive environment that lifts these kids and their whole communities up. In Haiti, that’s a missionary couple that serves 70,000 children a day with schools, orphanages, health clinics, and more.

In the Philippines, FMSC collaborated with other organizations on the island of Marinduque to provide integrated nutrition, education, and livelihood programs. They cut malnutrition by 90 percent, doubled incomes, and ended the program when the community said “thank you, God bless you and we’ve got this now.”

In an elementary school in Malawi, where students eat FMSC food each day, test scores in two years have increased so much the school has gone from being ranked #187 out of 200 to being ranked #8. Families now choose to educate all of their children, not just the boys.

“You start with the children,” Crea said. “If they grow up well, if they have enough nutrition, if they can go to school, if they can develop strong values, that’s how we'll lift those countries up. Simple to say, hard to do."


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