Blogging for good

NKH blogger visit photo

Getting advice from experts on breakfast in the classroom

When we started getting involved in hunger relief almost fifteen years ago, our first partner was Share Our Strength. There we encountered a large, vibrant community of folks who were passionate about ending hunger. When social media began emerging in the mid 2000’s,
we saw other communities come together online, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be tremendous if these digital tools could bring the hunger community together?” We started this blog in September 2007 for that very reason.

Today, we’re proud to say that our friends at Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry have one the best social media teams out there, doing an excellent job of growing their vibrant community and creating awareness for the issue of childhood hunger. It’s our great pleasure to sponsor their blogger network.

Last week, we had the privilege, along with the No Kid Hungry digital team, of hosting three members of the blogging network, in addition to two great northwest Arkansas bloggers at our corporate headquarters, to discuss how the blogger network can be made stronger and more robust. We had some excellent discussion.

Thanks so much to Becky Tarala, author of The Two Bite Club;  Josi Del Papa, who pens The American Mama and Dawn McCoy, creator of Beauty Frosting (among other things).   Also joining were Laurie Marshall of Junque Rethunque (among other things) and James Moore of busvlogger.

We got a chance to visit an after-school feeding program and a breakfast in the classroom program to see direct evidence of the work No Kid Hungry is doing in Arkansas.   A big shoutout to Fayetteville Public Schools and Springdale Public Schools for many kids they’re feeding with these programs.  We also got an excellent overview from Rachel Townsend, director of Cooking Matters for No Kid Hungry Arkansas, of the work they’re doing in the state.

It was good fun, good people, and lively, enlightening discussion. Check their blogs for some excellent content. And thanks to all for the energy and insights on how to make online communities work for No Kid Hungry.

Of twerking, cats and hungry kids

Orange--ask me why I'm wearing

Ah, the interwebs.  A marvelous thing that has changed the lives of all of us.  It can feed the intellect, stimulate the senses and take us around the world.   Or it can suck us into a cultural wasteland, wherein the most banal of  subjects get enormous attention.     It’s really our own choice as to where we want to be taken–and where we want to send our friends and family members.

In case you don’t know, September is a month in which hunger issues are emphasized by a lot of different organizations.  In the last couple of years, many of these organizations have promoted using the color orange–wearing it, posting it on one’s website, adorning your avatar, etc.–to create awareness of hunger in the United States.   Those of us who associate with those organizations and the cause of hunger are spending some of our online bandwidth to encourage others to learn about and get involved in helping fight hunger.   You’ll be seeing orange appear in our social content streams. 

Want to participate?  Here’s one way:  Go to the Share Our Strength Go Orange for No Kid Hungry page.   You’ll find all sorts of fun and interesting ways you can turn your online participation into awareness.  Maybe for the rest of the month, resolve to ignore memes about twerking popstars and adorable kitties.  Help folks understand that we have a real crisis on our hands with one in five kids in our country at risk of going hungry.

Today, thanks to technology, we can conduct a free visual phone call with our cousin in Uzbekistan, order aspirins online with one click,  or check our email while sitting on the potty.   Surely we can figure out how to feed some of these kids.  Do something good today.   Go Orange. 

 

The most digitally-connected hunger conference I’ve ever attended

Amanda Hite--photo courtesy of No Kid Hungry

Amanda Hite–photo courtesy of No Kid Hungry

When I went to my first Share our Strength Conference of Leaders in the fall of 2000, I was amazed by the vibrant, passionate community of people the organization had put together to address the issue of hunger.

As a relatively early adopter of social media around 2006, I  became really excited about the idea of that community bringing that energy, enthusiasm and spirited conversation online.  I waxed enthusiastically in blog posts here.

We brought the incredible Beth Kanter to the Conference of Leaders in 2008, to try to jump start the social media discussion. Maybe a bit before its time.  John Haydon came in the following year. Another great presentation, but still the online community was limited to a few of us.  Amanda Hite led the social media discussion in 2011, after which she was part of a great group of folks who created the No Kid Hungry Social  Council.

As a result of all the hard work that group has done, this year’s conference last week, was the very first major hunger gathering I’ve attended, where social media happened right. It happened mostly on Twitter.  Two large screens ran the Twitter feed in the plenary sessions. Amanda kicked it off with another great session.  Events saw tremendous traffic with #nokidhungry trending on Twitter at one point. People recognized great content.  High-profile attendees like The Food Network’s Ted Allen and Marc Murphy, and WNBA star Ruth Riley interacted online with attendees. People shared!!!!   The community truly came together.  Now it’s time to keep that momentum going.

Online communities thrive because of real-life  connections. We can have stimulating, compelling online conversations. We can share with each other; educate each other. But the real bonding occurs when we finally see each other face-to-face.  Sometimes it occurs the other way around:  We meet each other at an event, and that initial meeting can set up an online conversation that evolves into genuine friendship.  A lot of both occurred at this year’s conference.

Kudos to No Kid Hungry Online Community Director, Clay Dunn, Amanda Hite, and the No Kid Hungry Social Council and all of the folks who’ve been working to energize and connect the online tribe.  I believe you’ve done it. You’ve set the bar for every hunger organization that might want to mobilize stakeholders online.

One more thing:  the No Kid Hungry folks have put together two cool apps to further the cause:  Their No Kid Hungry app, which integrates gamification to engage people in various program activities.  And an app that features recipes from their Cooking Matters program (Tyson Foods is donating $1 for each of the first 5000 downloads of this app, so get on in to the iTunes Store and check it out).
BTW–Big shoutout to early adopters in this community, like Michael Farver, Bill Shore, Tim Cipriano Joni Doolin (and others whom I’ve no doubt omitted, but can be seen on this Twitter list of hunger advocates we’ve been putting together for the past few years).

Coins for Kids Blends Service, Learning

Aleta Greer's elementary school class in Alpine, Calif., started Coins for Kids.

Share Our Strength will debut a new curriculum for its Coins for Kids program in March that may “make change” in the way students learn about money.
Aleta Greer, an elementary school teacher with the Alpine (Calif.) School District near San Diego, created the program last winter. The idea was to mesh identifying coins with the community service requirement of California’s educational standards. Students brought in spare change to fill plastic tubs, and the money was charted weekly before eventually being donated to SOS’ No Kid Hungry program.
Some of Greer’s students summed up the program with this cute video.
It was only supposed to be a two-week, service-learning project, but the results kept adding up. Coins for Kids eventually grew into a fourth-month campaign that raised $1,522 and the eyebrows of SOS’ program leaders.
The initiative was so smart and successful that the hunger-relief organization included it as a fundraising idea on its youth-action Web site No Kid Hungry2.
Now the nonprofit has charged Greer with developing a formal curriculum that teachers across the nation may implement to make learning – and giving – fun.
“The kids just wanted to keep going,” Greer said. “They made and sold music makers, we had a school-wide fundraising contest between classes and they just really looked forward to graphing their progress on Fridays.
“We started by asking them if they’ve ever been hungry and what that feels like. They had a very strong response.”
Greer got inspired last year while watching “Larry King Live.” Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges was on the show advocating for No Kid Hungry. Greer loved the vision, but saw an opportunity to add the component of kids helping kids.
A 34-year veteran of education, Greer said although it’s hard to know what jobs there will be in 20 years certainly teaching students to think more globally will be important. Coins for Kids teaches a number of skills, she said, including how to be good critical thinkers and collaborators.
Several local businesses got on board as well.
Manana’s, a family restaurant in Alpine, hosted a day where about 25 percent of their proceeds were donated for the cause. The Mission Federal Credit Union also let Greer’s class count its 80 pounds of coins without the standard 10 percent fee.
“We have even bigger plans to involve more businesses this year,” Greer said. “We’re also going to have an ice cream social, a wear orange day and several other things. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids do something selfless and realize the intrinsic job of what it means to help someone else.”
There were a number of inspirational takeaways, Greer said, including a “thank you” video from SOS co-founder Billy Shore. He promised that the money would go to feed as many hungry children as possible. He also urged the children to stay involved in their community.
“In our video you see several students, some of whom are very shy,” Greer said. “There’s also one boy who stutters, but none of them hesitated to participate because it meant so much to them. We had several goals when we started, and No. 1 was helping hungry kids.”
To learn more about starting a Coins for Kids initiative at your school, visit the No Kid Hungry2 Web site and click through “Leaders Tackle Hunger” to the “Fundraise” hyperlink. Also look for the curriculum update in March.

 

Child Hunger Facts:
• More than 16 million kids in America struggle with hunger. (Source: USDA Household Food Security in the United States). That’s one in five kids or over 21% of all kids.
• 10.6 million kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not get it. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• 19 million kids get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• Five out of six eligible kids do not get free summer meals. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report”
• 40.3 million people in America got help through SNAP (food stamps) in 2010; half of them (20.1 million) were children. (Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Services)
• 15.5 million children in America live in poverty. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports).
Source: Share Our Strength

Hinges of Hope

Tyson Foods CEO, Donnie Smith visiting at lunch

“There are places in America that I think of as hinges of hope. They encompass despair but also promise. These challenging, seemingly intractable conditions have attracted amazing people who have committed their lives to ameliorating them. They represent some of our nations’ toughest and most stubborn problems and if we can make a difference there, we should be able to succeed anywhere. But the door could swing either way. If we can impact its direction, hope could flow freely instead of being locked out.”      – Billy Shore


For  nine years, Share Our Strength has been leading tours of influencers into areas of the country where extreme challenges with poverty and hunger are being met with innovative, inspiring work.  Share Our Strength founder Billy Shore coined the phrase Hinges of Hope to describe these tours.

I had the privilege of being on the first of these tours, held in 2002, which explored work being done in the Mississippi Delta and the Rio Grande Valley.  The trip was a watershed event for me. We were at ground zero on work being done in the midst of the greatest need.  I was with people who were already passionate about the issue. It’s difficult under those circumstances not to be infected with that passion.  (more on that later). 

I’ve been on several such trips since then, including the most recent one, in Little Rock, just this past Tuesday.  The tour, led by Billy Shore, focused on some great work being done with the Arkansas No Kid Hungry initiative.  Tyson Foods CEO, Donnie Smith joined Wal-Mart senior leaders, elected officials and staff members, other corporate representatives and hunger leaders.  It began at the Arkansas governor’s mansion, with remarks by Gov. Beebe, who along with First Lady Ginger Beebe and Wal-Mart has been instrumental in bringing No Kid Hungry to Arkansas.  From there, we visited sites in Little Rock and North Little Rock, where summer feeding programs are making the difference in the lives of thousands of central Arkansas children. 

Many of us who spend a great deal of time talking about hunger relief, don’t spend nearly enough time close to the subject.  We should be reminded more often and more honestly of what we’re talking about.  We should meet face-to-face the people whose lives are affected by food insecurity. And we should invest more of our own time to see the work of those who are investing their own lives to change the world.