I had the good fortune to attend Share Our Strength's Annual Leadership Conference last weekend in Baltimore, and I'd like to share a little bit about my experience there with you. The conference gathers most of the corporate and regional staff from each of the organization's divisions, along with some front-line volunteers (like me) in order that we can all meet, share best practices, learn more about the broader vision and efforts of the organization, and generally get inspired as hell.
As many of you know, I've been working with Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters program in Massachusetts as a chef instructor, teaching at-risk Moms (and a few Dads) how to shop for and cook healthy meals for their families, all on a limited budget. I love my work with these folks, and am so proud of the changes I see in them even over the short six week time horizon of each class. These souls are motivated to change and we provide them the tools to start their journey, it is awesome and rewarding work.
As great as Cooking Matters (CM) is however, it is only one of the initiatives championed by Share Our Strength. Along with CM, Share our Strength runs a number of fund raising events that are not only great fun, but a wonderful way to support the mission of SOS which is to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. Events such as Taste of the Nation, The Great American Bake Sale, Dine Out-No Kid Hungry, and A Tasteful Pursuit help the organization raise the money to support their Cooking Matters programs, as well as many other efforts aimed at combating childhood hunger.
Don't think you know a kid who struggles with hunger? Given the statistics listed below, I bet you do, and you don't even know it.
- 1 in 5 children in America, more than 16 million, struggle with hunger.
- Almost 15.7 million children in America live in poverty, and many of those who do live everyday with the threat of food insecurity.
- 18.6 million children benefit from SNAP (food stamps).
- Over 20 million children get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day.
- Only 10.5 million children get a free or reduced-price school breakfast on an average school day.
- 6 out of 7 children do not get the free summer meals they are eligible for.
- Less than half of eligible children get free or reduced-price school breakfast.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned over the course of the conference I heard from a gentleman by the name of Bill Ludwig, who is the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator for the Southwestern US. In his presentation, Bill stated unequivocally that the problem is not a lack of food in this country, nor a lack of commitment at the Federal level earmarking enough of this food for our kids. The biggest problem, he said, is getting the food to the kids that need it.
When I heard him say that, a little speech bubble appeared over my head and in it was a picture of that old bumper-sticker that reads "Think Global, Act Local". You see, as with many seemingly impossible challenges, the key to making a real difference lies in local action. Hearing this, and understanding it in relation to the problem of childhood hunger in this country was a revelation, and had me feeling (dare I say it) optimistic, emboldened even, about our collective ability to eradicate the menace that is childhood hunger.
Knowing that getting more people involved in local initiatives is the real key to connecting our kids in need with nutritious food that is there for the taking, made the whole problem feel much more personal and manageable to me. Every person who engages in their local fight to end hunger, and every child that benefits from these efforts put us one step closer to our goal of "No Kid Hungry". For those of you willing to join the battle, I urge you to click HERE and see how your local Share Our Strength office is active in your community. Perhaps you've got the time and the skill set to help teach a Cooking Matters class like I do. Maybe your local SOS office will connect you with a local Food Bank or Community Kitchen that could use a pair of helping hands. Don't have time to volunteer, but are anxious to support the great work of this organization, then click HERE to take the "No Kid Hungry" pledge, learn more about childhood hunger in our country, and make a donation to do your part to end it.
Working together, and working locally, we can put an end to childhood hunger in the US. Please join me in making this fight a priority in your life so that one day soon we can say that at least here, in the wealthiest nation on the planet, there is No Kid Hungry.
Thanks so much – Steve