Food For The Poor Photographer Wins InterAction Photo Of The Year

A photograph of a little girl sitting in the midst of a massive garbage dump in Guatemala has captured the attention of the largest coalition of United States-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The photo brings to light the desperate plight of thousands of children in underdeveloped countries that spend most of their days searching for scraps of food. The image of this young girl was shot by Food For The Poor staff photographer Ben Rusnak and he is scheduled to be honored as the grand prize winner by InterAction, an aid coalition based out of Washington D.C.

Rusnak, who has worked with Food For The Poor for 10 years, took this photograph entitled “Disposable” in February 2006. He was documenting the harsh living conditions of the extremely impoverished families who work and survive off scraps found in one of Guatemala’s massive garbage dumps.

Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in this hemisphere, higher than many countries in Africa. The United Nations reports that 23 percent of Guatemalan children under age 5 are underweight, and one in two children under age 5 are stunted. Although it is not the poorest country in the region, Guatemala is the sixth-hungriest nation in the world.


“Food For The Poor has done extensive work with our partners in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, building homes, water projects and a vocational training center, to give people better opportunities than working in the garbage dump,” said Rusnak. “I believe the photo today still has enormous emotional impact because it is symbolic of the struggle and pain of the poor everywhere.”

Rusnak will be honored with the award at InterAction’s annual conference, which will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. The two-day conference begins on June 2. More than 330 entries were submitted to the coalition’s annual photo contest.

“It was felt that ‘Disposable’ dramatically and honestly captured the plight of the developing world on several levels: the status of children, environment and climate change, food security, and the general effects of poverty,” said Chad Brobst, Managing Editor of the magazine Monday Developments, and a Senior Manager at InterAction. “Not only does the photograph generate emotions, it also generates much-needed discussion.”

In addition to winning Photo of the Year, Rusnak’s “Disposable” also will serve as the cover shot for the upcoming August Issue of Monday Development, InterAction’s magazine that provides news and commentary on global trends that affect relief, refugee and development work.

The picture won Rusnak another prestigious award from the editors of the Photo District News annual of outstanding photography. The powerful image also won first place in the Gordon Parks International Photo Competition in 2008. The competition honors photography that represents the important themes of Gordon Parks’ work: social injustice, the suffering of others and family values. Parks established his reputation as a world-renowned photojournalist for Life Magazine, chronicling the Civil Rights movement for two decades.

“We are grateful for the acknowledgement this award gives to Ben,” said Food For The Poor Exective Director Angel Aloma, who will also be attending the InterAction conference and will be introducing Rusnak before getting the award. “More than anything else, we hope the exposure of the photograph opens the eyes of the world to the dangerous and subhuman conditions these poor children are experiencing in Guatemala. The image documents their despair, but it also can be an instrument which sparks much-needed action.”

You can read more about Ben Rusnak’s biography on InterAction’s website. To view the latest video of his work which will be presented at InterAction’s annual conference, visit

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit

Aimee Vignola
Public Relations
954.427.2222, ext. 6079