Larry Jones, an Oklahoma-based television evangelist, came to the Washington area for the holiday weekend with 26 tractor-trailers in tow. And come Tuesday, he and the trucks will leave behind 1 million pounds of food for the hungry.

Feed the Children, the relief organization founded by Jones in 1979, began working with 600 churches and food banks in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia early this year on the food giveaway, which will culminate in the organization's three-day Labor Day blitz on the nation's capital.

Jones said in an interview yesterday that the size and length of the effort arose because "so many times {evangelists} will come in and do a big {crusade}, televise it and be gone."

A one-day food giveaway here in February involving 75 churches and organizations showed him what could be done, he said. "I was impressed {enough to} really try to do this on a massive scale."

Yesterday afternoon under cloudy but mostly rainless skies, a rally was staged at the Sylvan Theater on the Mall near the Washington Monument, featuring local and national speakers and entertainers. Groups of church members, clusters of tourists and onlookers were scattered on the slope from the monument to the theater stage, some dancing, some sitting and others singing along with Freddie Langston, a Florida pop-gospel singer.

Phil Ward, 28, who sat and talked with a friend during the performance, said he heard of the event through a coworker and came from his Northwest home "to see what it's all about."

Dolores Carter, 39, who attends Rhema Faith Center, a nondenominational church in Tysons Corner, stood and sang along with Langston, knowing exactly what the event was about. Carter said she has watched Jones' television show, which is broadcast locally Sunday mornings. "He was talking about the surplus food in the United States and {that} the food was rotting, {yet} people were hungry," she said. "The food should be {distributed} instead of just letting it rot."

Carter's assessment of a problem of supply and demand and transportation is precisely why Jones and Feed the Children are in Washington.

Continuing today and tomorrow, the Mall programs will kick off a food giveaway strategem that Jones plans to continue in other cities, beginning with a Thanksgiving giveaway in Phoenix and similar operations in Houston and Los Angeles before the winter holiday season.

Feed the Children was inspired by Jones' encounter with a hungry child during a religious crusade in Haiti, and it embodies his commitment to take immediate action to stem hunger here and abroad.

"We didn't want to give a theory in Washington, D.C.," Jones said, adding that the emphasis will not be on monetary donations and church offerings but on giving. "There's enough theories in Washington, D.C. We wanted to address {the domestic hunger problem} in practical ways."

On Tuesday, churches and hunger relief organizations from Baltimore, West Virginia, Alexandria, Annapolis, the District and Stafford County and places in between will send representatives to the Sullyfield Commerce Center in Chantilly. There, each will be guaranteed at least one ton of the cornmeal, potatoes and other staples donated by corporate producers or culled from government surpluses through Feed the Children purchases.