In Memoriam: Pat Kutzner, World Hunger Education Service Founder

Pat Kutzner, the founder of World Hunger Education Service and of Hunger Notes, passed away December 8 in Albuquerque, New Mexico after a short illness.


Pat retired from WHES in 1996 and moved to Cuba, New Mexico where she began working, with Quaker support, as a planning consultant for the Torreon/Star Lake
Navajo Chapter in New Mexico. She helped initiate various projects, including establishing a local thrift store and an annual festival, the Eastern Navajo Arts and Crafts Festival. She also helped raise funds for various projects including an erosion control and water conservation project carried out by Navajo youth. She remained working for the Chapter until a few months before her death.

A chronology of Pat’s involvement with hunger issues and WHES appears below, showing the energy and scope of her involvement in addressing the causes of hunger. It is drawn from a document Pat provided me in 2010 when I requested information about WHES’s history from her. Also see the comments on Pat’s work of Antonio Gayoso, current WHES Board member, Jim Levinson, then Director of the International Food and Nutrition Center at Tufts University, Patricia Young, now deceased, then Executive Director of the U.S. Committee for World Food Day, Ambassador Tony Hall and others, made in 1999 as part of a special issue of Hunger Notes on development education, which was dedicated to her.

Pat founded WHES 40 years ago next year. The WHES Board was hoping to have her back to Washington DC for a celebration of the 40th anniversary, and a look at the future of efforts against hunger and WHES’ role in the coming decade. The WHES Board has established a fund in her memory that will be used to further her multifaceted approach to hunger issues, particularly reducing hunger through knowledge. We hope you will join us in this effort. Contributions can be made through the PayPal link at the top of the home page, or by check to WHES at PO Box 29015, Washington, DC 20017.

Pat Kutzner’s Involvment with Hunger Issues

In 1975, Pat moves to Washington, D.C. to be closer to the actlon on policy issues affecting hunger as Bread for the World and the Interreligious Taskforce on Hunger began their advocacy.

In May 1975, the Episcopal Office of Christian Education requests a monthly newsletter to keep the newly formed Episcopal Hunger Network updated on relevant resources and events. Pat composes the first issue of “Hunger Workshop Notes” in June 1975 on an old Smith¬∑Corona portable typewriter while sitting on the floor of the non-air-conditioned room she is renting temporarily at Trinity College near Catholic University. Pat (a Quaker) is also asked to be the Episcopal Hunger Network’s liaison on the Interreligious Taskforce on U.S. Food Policy until an official Episcopal representative can be named.

World Hunger Education Service Begins, April 1976

By early 1976, with encouragement coming from several directions, Pat recognized the potential value of an information clearinghouse and networking center especially for local, regional, and national leaders but also for any citizen or organization seeking to eliminate hunger and poverty through policy advocacy, education, communication, or dlrect action. Through its publications, seminars, consultations, and resource center the organization would disseminate information about the extent and causes of hunger and facilitate communication and cooperative action among those working for solutions. Finally, in all that it did, this organization would promote a multifaceted understanding that included ethical, religious, social, economic, political and scientific perspectives on the problem of food insecurity anywhere. Only by seriously attempting to understand the full context of the hunger problem in all of its complexity, Pat believed, could we wisely and effectively respond. This, in a nutshell, was the vision that World Hunger Education Service would try to fulfill.

But first, she needed a rent-free “office” where she could set up a “desk” (i.e., a card table with a Smith Corona typewriter on it), keep files, have a “business address” and use a telephone. It happened, thanks to Sam and Miriam Levering, in a corner of their third floor office in the Friends Committee on National Legislation building on Capitol Hill, where they were working on the Law of the Seas Treaty; the “rent” meant answering their telephone and taking messages when they weren’t there to do it themselves. Then, with that need settled, Pat found out how to register and incorporate (sans lawyer) a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia, and invited Barbara Howell, Bread for the World’s domestic hunger specialist, and Bob Cory, director of William Penn House, the Quaker Center on Capitol Hill, to be her co-founders of World Hunger Education Service. Both agreed wholeheartedly, and WHES was incorporated in Aprll 1976. IRS 501(c)(3) status followed a few months later.

The WHES Program, 1976

With its bylaws completed, a larger board of directors, and Pat as executive director, WHES begins in July 1976 offering Hunger Notes (new title) to the wider public by subscription, while continuing to provide it under contract with the Episcopal Church Center in New York City for special distribution to the Episcopal Hunger Network.

The next project added to the WHES program was the first edition of Who’s Involved With Hunger: An Organization Guide for Educatlon and Advocacy, co-published in 1976 with the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation, and co-edited by Pat and Timothy Sullivan, AFHF director. Five more editions will appear between 1976 and 1995:

Second Edition (1979) co-published with the Presidential Commission on World Hunger;
Third Edition (1982) edited by Linda Worthington, with support from the United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod, Church World Service, Oxfam America, The Hunger Project, and Xerox Corporation;
Fourth Edition (1985) co-sponsored by the Development Education Program of the U.S. Agency for International Development and 17 private sector organizations, businesses, and individuals;
Fifth Edition (1992) co-published with Bread for the World Institute, with additional support from 30 other private sector organizations and individuals.
Finally In 1995, with elghteen NGOs (religious and secular) as co-sponsors, the sixth edition, including a special message from Congressmen Benjamin Gilman and Tony HaII, was co-publlshed with the Congressional Hunger Center. This final edition edited by Pat Is dedicated “to the women, men, and youth in these and similar organizations who persist, with hope and courage against the odds, to build a world for all people where human dignity is liberated, human community fulfilled, and a wounded Creation healed.”
Also in 1976, the Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Arlington, VIrginia, asked World Hunger Education Service for help in developing an educational program about hunger that could be used with children ln grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. By 1978 this effort had evolved into a curriculum guide co-edited by Patricia L. Kutzner and Linda Stoerkel titled Have You Ever Been Hungry?, published by United Church Press for use also in 10 additional Protestant denominations.

WHES 1977-1980

The Politics of Hunger Seminar/Praxis, begins in 1977, funded by grants from several major denominational hunger programs. This was a two-week program for up to ten people at a time who were leading (or planning to head) hunger action in their own communities or institutions. Some were academics, some were sent by their churches, some were returning Peace Corps volunteers … a very interesting mixture each time. The semlnar/praxis was offered two or three times a year starting in 1977 and ending in 1980. Difficulty finding affordable lodging In D.C. for the participants was a major reason for discontinuing the program in 1980.

The first week concentrated on hunger In low-income countries; the second week focused on U.S. hunger. Three basic questions pertained to each week in turn: “What kind of help has the best chance of bringing about permanent improvement in people’s ability to feed themselves?” “What obstacles get in the way of that kind of help happening?” “How can those obstacles be overcome?”

The moming sessions usually focused on discussions with invited “experts” from relevant NGOs, UN agencies with offices in Washington DC, federal agencies, and notable programs operating on hunger and poverty in D.C. itself. These discussions were totally “off the record,” unrecorded, unpublicized and informal. The speakers could “let their hair down” and talk freely of their own experience, frustrations, and occasional successes in accomplishing a beneficial change. Again and again, the speakers told Pat later how wonderful it felt to be able to talk so openly about such things face to face with other concerned people without worrying about unwanted consequences of being so frank. And how good it felt to be with supportive citizens who appreciated what the speakers were trying to do and the difficulties they faced in that effort. And vice versa: WHES staff and participants alike were often surprised and very glad to discover some really good people working behind the scenes in government and elsewhere, trying very hard to “make a difference” against great odds.

The afternoons were open for the participants to use as they felt best, with or without assistance from WHES staff, whether that meant a quiet time to read or ponder what they had heard, or a time to speak with their congressional representative and senators or their staff; or a “field trip” to some local organization dealing with hunger; etc. We would come together in the evening for a shared dinner and reflections on that day’s experience or to hear about each participant’s own efforts or plans for back home. (These evening gatherings usually took place in the big house that Pat was renting as a means to subsidize her meager income from WHES by renting out the extra bedrooms; or doing “bed and breakfast” for Quaker travelers.)

Some comments from participant evaluations: “One of the biggest benefits for me was meeting kindred spirits from across the country.” “There was real community at the time.” “I needed some faith at that point in my life and learning about all the others who were working toward ‘the new society’ helped to build that faith, knowing there was a supportive network ‘out there’. ” “It is so good to help hunger workers realize that they are not alone, that there are others like them quietly working in their own communities across the nation, in federal agencies, in non-governmental organizations, in the United Nations and overseas, individuals involved behind the scenes in work which is rarely publicized but which does represent progress. Putting people in touch with each other is a great value.”

Sorne concrete outcomes of the Politics of Hunger Seminar/Praxls program that Pat knew resulted:

The Greater Washington Area Food Bank initiated by former WHES intern Rick Stack, who got the inspiration from a Seminar/Praxis.
The Philadelphia Area Food Bank: similarly initiated by an Episcopal churchwoman upon returning home from a Politics of Hunger Seminar/Praxis.
After Don Kimmel, representing FAO in Wash, D.C., tells a Seminar/Praxis about the important issues to be addressed in the upcoming World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Developmnt to be held In Rome In July 1979, and about the total lack of interest on the part of the White House, the State Department, and Congress, Pat and WHES intern Rick Stack decide to convene a large gathering of NGOs to consider how to rouse enough congressional interest to wake up the State Department to get cracking on last minute preparations for an active U.S presence at the conference. At USAID Antonio Gayoso Is happily assigned by his boss to asslst those preparations, and the State Department names Pat as “NGO Liaison” on the U.S. delegation. Andrew Young, U.S. ambassador to the UN, gives the opening U.S. speech and–to the State Department’s great dismay– inserts uncensored comments into his prepared speech which reflect the NGO consortium’s concerns about the special difficulties of farm laborers, small family farms in general, and black farmers in particular. (A handwritten note on hotel stationery had reminded the ambassador of these pressing problems just before he spoke. What else was a NGO Liaison good for?)
When Ronald Reagan succeeded Jimmie Carter as president, the War on Poverty officially ended and a frequent government speaker at the Seminar/Praxis was ordered to shred his files containing the story of the War on Poverty’s interaction with countless communities and organizations across the U.S. In desperation he asked WHES to store the files until a better and more permanent home could be found for them. Then with his own car and mover’s dolly, he hauled those files over in load after load, box after box, stacked from floor to ceiling in WHES’s seminar room. Happy ending: all of those War on Poverty records are now preserved for posterity (and future research) in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library at the University of Texas in Austin.

In 1980, the Office of Women in Development In the U.S. Agency for International Development sends Pat to the Mid-Decade for Women Conference in Copenhagen as part of her research for a working paper on “Communicating on the Needs of Rural Women.” When the Carter Administration ends and the Reagan Administration begins, USAID loses interest in this topic and the working paper is never submitted.

In 1985, the Friends (Quaker) World Committee for Consultation appoints Pat to its international delegation of observers at the Nairobi conference ending the UN Decade for Women. “Women Farmers of Kenya” becomes the April-May issue of Hunger Notes In 1986, after Pat recovers from a major operation for the cancer discovered after a long search for the cause of persistent but ambiguous symptoms that first appeared in Nairobi.

In 1989 Pat agrees to write a “reference handbook” on world hunger as part of a series on “Contemporary World Issues” published by ABC-CLIO in Santa Barbara, California and Oxford, England. Board member Phillip Hesser agrees to take on the editorial responsibility for Hunger Notes during most of 1990. The book Is published in 1991.

In 1995 Pat begins to feel that it is time to retire from WHES after 20 years. Then, while vacationing in New Mexico, a chance meeting with leaders of a remote Navajo community near Chaco Canyon ends with their only slightly veiled invitation to think about returning as their planning consultant. The whole idea seems both exciting and preposterous, but when she returns to Washington, she notifies the board of directors of her intention to retire In April 1996, the twentieth anniversary of WHES’ founding. She also convenes a gathering of board members and other friends of the organization to consider whether and how Hunger Notes should continue after her retirement. Lane Vanderslice volunteers to become the new editor of Hunger Notes if the board approves, which it gladly does. A period of transition begins.

By April 1996 the transition is complete, Lane Vanderslice is fully responsible for Hunger Notes, and Pat leaves WHES. In October 1996, with official Quaker support, she accepts Torreon/Star Lake Navajo Chapter’s invitation and returns to New Mexico to be their planning consultant for six months starting in October. She remained working with the Chapter until a few months before her death.

Written by Lane Vanderslice, former editor of Hunger Notes

  • World Hunger Education
    P.O. Box 29015
    Washington, D.C. 20017
  • For the past 40 years, since its founding in 1976, the mission of World Hunger Education Service is to undertake programs, including Hunger Notes, that
    • Educate the general public and target groups about the extent and causes of hunger and malnutrition in the United States and the world
    • Advance comprehension which integrates ethical, religious, social, economic, political, and scientific perspectives on the world food problem
    • Facilitate communication and networking among those who are working for solutions
    • Promote individual and collective commitments to sustainable hunger solutions.