A Sustainable Solution to Hunger

A Sustainable Solution to Hunger


Alumna Dawn Moncrief is helping feed the planet with plant-based foods through A Well-Fed World.

by Eric Butterman

Dawn Moncrief




Dawn Moncrief, a double GW alumna, can pinpoint the moment when she decided to devote her life to promoting plant-based hunger solutions.

It was in 1999 when she read the International Food Policy Research Institute’s “Livestock to 2020” report. It highlighted how population growth, urbanization and growing income in developing countries were causing demand for animal-based food to skyrocket. The report urged governments and other entities to plan to accommodate the surge in demand caused by the so-called “livestock revolution.”

A longtime vegetarian and recent vegan, Moncrief, M.A. ’98, M.A. ’01, wondered why no one was advocating for the reduction of animal-based foods at least as part of the solution to world hunger, especially given the outsized environmental impact of animal-based food.

At the time, Moncrief had just earned her first master’s from GW in international relations and was working on her second in women’s studies. “I knew I wanted to work on hunger relief development issues,” she says.

So she created Plants-4-Hunger as an educational tool, then expanded it into a campaign while working as program director and later executive director at a national animal advocacy organization.

In 2009, A Well-Fed World officially launched as a full, stand-alone nonprofit dedicated to international hunger relief and food security through plant-based food and farming. Since then, the D.C.-based nonprofit has gone on to raise more than $12 million to fund projects in 94 countries.

A key part of Moncrief’s mission is to raise awareness of the benefits of plant-based food—both nutritionally and in terms of the impact on the climate. “Too many crops are being diverted unnecessarily for livestock use that could help feed people,” Moncrief says. “Many people don’t realize the effect animal agriculture has on pollution and greenhouse gases.”

For example, she says, to produce a 100-calorie beef patty, a cow needs to be fed 2,500 food crop calories (enough to feed an adult for an entire day).

One of A Well-Fed World’s flagship programs is Plants-4-Hunger, which supports plant-based hunger relief programs in some of the world’s most impoverished areas. A hundred percent of donations go to the program’s projects, Moncrief says, which are developed in partnership with the communities they aid.

“We don’t grow the food or distribute it,” Moncrief says. “Many development organizations are criticized for going in and imposing their model.” Instead, she says, A Well-Fed World funds projects that are self-sustaining. “It’s about being community empowering.”

In Ethiopia, for example, A Well-Fed World has partnered with the International Fund for Africa to provide plant-based school meals for children in need. “We’ve been a supporter for more than 10 years now,” she says. The program has built on-site bakeries and mushroom farms to support long-term stability.

A Well-Fed World also partners with Malnutrition Matters, which provides sustainable low-cost food technology solutions, such as equipment to turn soybeans into soymilk and a variety of high-protein foods for direct consumption and to sell. The goal is to provide platforms for micro-enterprises that enable local women to earn some income and provide affordable, nutrient-dense food to the community.


“We don’t grow the food or distribute it...It’s about being community empowering.”




Other Plant-4-Hunger partnerships expand global bean and seed distribution, food trees that support reforestation of the Amazon and other rainforests, and disaster relief efforts. Recent projects include providing food aid through Lviv Vegan Kitchen in Ukraine; community food gardens and food shares in hurricane-torn New Orleans, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Florida; and protein-packed care packages to nourish economic victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moncrief credits GW with helping forge her career path. “I wanted to help figure out how to address the causes of food insecurity,” she says. “I did my second master’s thesis centered on food issues, and that thesis is still the core of my work.”

The thesis examined rethinking meat and its role in world hunger, and Moncrief earned GW’s Graduate Prize for Feminist Scholarship for her research.

“I learned so much over my time at GW,” she says. She cites classes with Professor James Rosenau, an expert on globalization, as particularly eye-opening. “It was one more example of GW teaching you to think through things for yourself as you look at issues. Being in the graduate school community with sophisticated thinkers and discussing ideas, you grow at GW.”

And how will A Well-Fed World continue to grow? “We want to continue to get the word out,” she says. “We want to build up plant-based campaigns in school-lunch systems and encourage more people to get involved in making a difference. You see so many who care about people and our world—that encourages me.”  



  Courtesy of Dawn Moncrief