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Emergency Hunger LifeLine

Emergency Hunger LifeLine: Extending the reach of local nonprofits

There's a new way for small, nonprofit organizations to raise their profile and reach people in need.

A project called the Emergency Hunger LifeLINE is establishing a single, nationwide telephone number that anybody can call to obtain food. Under the system, which already is operating in Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, any call to the number 1-800-HUNGRY2 will be automatically routed to the local referral agency nearest to the caller, based on the caller's area code and exchange. The referral group in Washington,--it's People's House--can immediately connect the caller to the nearest source of food.

The Hunger Lifeline project is managed by the Rapid Action Food Team of Alexandria, Va. With the support of the nation's largest hunger relief organizations and technical and financial support from MCI Telecommunications Corp., the team is about to launch pilots in 11 locations prior to going nationwide next year.

Although the concept is simple, several hurdles had to be overcome before sponsors could move to launch the system nationwide. Hundreds of local hunger-relief programs across the nation had to be coordinated. On the technical side, a system had to be developed to route "800" calls to agencies in the same exchanges where they originate.

The system should prove to be worth the effort, though. Because the single telephone number can be publicized nationally, the cost of advertising for each local group will be less than if it had to publicize a separate number for each locality. At the same time, the chances of reaching prospective clients will be increased. And the system will be quite flexible; it even will be set up so that people who want to volunteer their assistance will also be able to call.

"It's one number, it's easy to remember, you can call it if you're hungry, want to volunteer, want to pledge support, (or) want more information," says John Mennell, manager of the project.

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Last updated: 5 December 1996 mkh