Joan Holmes, President of “The Hunger Project” (THP), a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City, was appointed last month to the “UN Millennium Project Hunger Task Force.”

Ms. Holmes and THP have an interesting historical background that includes connections to a purported “cult-like” group that allegedly “brainwashes” participants.

And recently THP has sought to purge that history from the Internet, perhaps in an effort to prepare the way for Holmes UN appointment.

A 1970s pop guru named Werner Erhard (once known as “Jack” Rosenberg) hatched The Hunger Project as a spin-off of Erhard Seminars Training (EST), which is now known as Landmark Education.

THP was actually launched at an EST board meeting.

Professor and scholar David Hoekema writing for the Christian Century Magazine in 1979 said THP was little more than “empty talk” essentially based upon Erhard’s much criticized teachings

Holmes who now claims UN status was once a devoted Erhard follower that eventually joined his EST staff.

“EST training altered everything for me,” Holmes gushed in 1975.

Erhard historically explained THP this way. “The Hunger Project is not about solutions. It’s not about fixing up the problem…[it’s] about creating a context…then we will know how to make the world work.”

Holmes appeared to echo her mentor’s mantra later saying, “The Hunger Project is about locating in the fabric of self the end of hunger and starvation…It is our sense that when that is done to any appreciable degree, that we can have an end of hunger.”

Werner Erhard left THP’s Board in 1990. However, the former encyclopedia and used car salesman who possessed no college degree left behind a legacy of “principles and abstractions” and perhaps most notably a “Source Document” for the organization.

Erhard’s ardent disciple Holmes soldiered on and arguably became part of the seminar guru’s legacy. And she is now able to further his philosophy through the UN.

Interestingly, the same task force that seated Holmes is co-chaired by her friend Professor M.S. Swaminathan, who is also “chairman emeritus of The Hunger Project’s Global Board of Directors.”

How convenient, could this mean that the professor was the impetus behind Ms. Holmes selection?

In a letter from the UN Task Force quoted by THP at its website Holmes is lauded for her “outstanding expertise and contribution to the field.”

But what substance is there behind this effusive praise?

According to its website THP’s goals are to identify “the conditions that give rise to the persistence of hunger.”

And the organization has “strategies to…transform these conditions,” which supposedly “restore and unleash the human spirit.”

But doesn’t this still sound like what Hoekema once called “empty talk”?

THP doesn’t mention the most obvious means of stopping hunger, which is providing food to the hungry.

The organization took in more than $6 million dollars during 2002 and reported spending “76.1%” on “programs,” “16.8%” on “administration” and “7.1%” on “fund-raising.”

“Where’s the beef?” Or for that matter any other item listed from a recognizable food group?

THP says, “The bottom line is simple – we invest in and empower people.”

But isn’t the “bottom line” on hunger feeding people? And wouldn’t an investment in some food actually help to “empower” the world’s starving population?

Again, THP sounds like a faddish flashback to 1970s EST inspired group thinking.

Searching through the organization’s website you won’t find a peer reviewed published scientific study cited offering proof of THP’s theories, theses or paradigm, just more lofty rhetoric.

But unless the UN counts rhetoric and vintage 1970s pop philosophy as a cure for world hunger, they may come up short based upon any contribution offered by Ms. Holmes and THP.

However, conversely THP certainly sees the contribution that the UN has made by conferring status and a title upon its president.

It “represents an important new opportunity for The Hunger Project to play a greater leadership role in the international development community,” boasts its website.

THP already has announced that the UN “Task Force visited one of [its] epicenters in Malawi last year, and has included Hunger Project field program leaders from India, Bangladesh and Uganda in their regional consultations.”

No doubt THP will also find the imprimatur of the UN handy for fund-raising.

Werner Erhard the grand creator behind THP is now reportedly comfortably retired and spending his time languishing luxuriously and well fed with his longtime girlfriend “Hanukkah” on the beaches of the Cayman Islands.

Don’t worry about Werner going hungry.

Now known as Werner Spits, Erhard has joined an eating club called Chaîne des Rotisseurs, which holds formal themed dinners several times a year. One eleven-course feast (roasted squab, peaches in chartreuse jelly) re-created the last dinner on the Titanic.

And old gurus need not fade away, they can live on through their devoted disciples, just ask Joan Holmes and the UN.

Note: CultNews phoned THP headquarters in Manhattan for comment. But its PR person had “nothing to say” and hung up.


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