The Hunger Project was founded in 1977 in the United States by Werner Erhard. It was one of many hunger-related organizations founded in the wake of the first World Food Conference in Rome. At the conference, the notion of "ending" hunger (rather than alleviating hunger) was discussed for the first time. Many expressed frustruation that conventional approaches and conventional thinking were insufficient to meet the challenge. The Hunger Project was designed to challenge conventional thinking, and pioneer strategies which could address the root causes that gave rise to wide-spread hunger and poverty.
By the early 1980s, The Hunger Project was established in ten countries.
In its early years, various international studies concluded that what was missing for the end of hunger was the "political will", primarily in the developed world. From 1977 until 1990, The Hunger Project focused most of its efforts on education and advocacy, primarily in the developing world. By the mid-1980s, and particularly in the face of continent-wide famine in Africa, it was clear that - while necessary - greater political will in the developed world was insufficient. There needed to be a profound change in the policies and development methodologies applied on the ground in developing countries as well. Immediately following the 1990 World Summit for Children - a high-water mark in mobilizing the political will to end hunger - The Hunger Project redesigned all its programs to focus on mobilizing the leadership, pioneering the strategies and catalyzing the campaigns of action in the developing world needed to bring hunger to an end.