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. 


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

Teenage Role Model

Jackie Price

Jackie Price, left, has raised more than $15,000 for the Great American Bake Sale

Jackie Price plans to be a chef someday. For now, she’s just a hero.
A senior at Magruder High School in Rockville, Md., Price started her own Great American Bake Sale effort at the age of 13. Four years later, she’s raised nearly $15,000 and is a four-time nominee for Share Our Strength’s GABS Leadership Award.
If those efforts weren’t enough, Price is an online advocate for hunger relief via her blog www.forgoodnessbakes.webs.com. The site offers a variety of resources including a menu of treats that may be purchased to benefit SOS.
We met her at this year’s SOS Conference of Leaders in Baltimore and knew Price is truly a Tyson Foods Hunger All-Star.
She learned about Share Our Strength while watching a public service announcement on her favorite channel – The Food Network. Price said hunger advocacy was a natural progression since cooking is her calling and she was looking for outlets to volunteer.
The first year she scored a free booth at Rockville’s Hometown Holidays, a Memorial Day weekend celebration that features cultural and culinary fare. Price sold out on day one that first year racking up more than $800 in sales. By the second day’s end, she had sold out again and pushed her tally to more than $1,700.
“Over time we got smarter about how much to bake,” Price said. “I really got excited about the cause, and after I realized how much money we would really raise, I just knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Eventually she wrote Duncan Hines about helping sponsor her GABS efforts. The company came through donating frosting and cake mix and even some fund matching through a partnership with SOS.
Although the majority of Price’s fundraising is done through sugary treats, she said emphasizing healthy eating choices for kids is equally important. She writes about the latter at www.healthyteenfoodie.blogspot.com.

Jackie Price’s Tips for Having
A Successful Great American Bake Sale
Here are a few tips for high school students or others who might like to start their own Great American Bake Sale campaign:
1) Latch on to a festival or other community event. The increased foot-traffic will do wonders.
2) Use Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale resource page. There are posters and other materials that will give you more confidence in how to run your sale
3) Keep it simple by preparing traditional recipes. Chocolate chip cookies, for instance, sell faster
4) Have fun

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.

Guest post: Bill Shore, Share Our Strength

Bill Shore is founder and executive director of Share Our Strength and the author of “The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men”.

Together we’re going to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. How can I be so confident in our ability to defeat a problem as complex and widespread as childhood hunger in America? Because we’re doing it right now with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign™. We’re overcoming barriers that keep kids and families from healthy food they need to reach their full potential, making targeted investments in innovative programs across the country, and giving families the tools they need to nurture their children for the long term.

But we can’t underestimate what it’s going to take. Ending childhood hunger in America is going to take a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of dedicated supporters like you.

I want to tell you about one little boy whose life you have already touched. He received free meals all summer at a Boys & Girls Club in El Dorado, Arkansas, thanks to support from Share Our Strength. One day, a staff member noticed that he was stuffing his pockets with ketchup packets and he explained, “I save these and bring them home so my grandma and I can make tomato soup together.” As heart wrenching as this story is, it’s even more troubling when you realize how widespread this kind of hunger is for children in our country.

Childhood hunger lives in every community in America, from rural Tennessee to the urban communities of Los Angeles to the suburbs of Ohio. Children in the U.S. aren’t hungry because this nation lacks food or food programs. Children are hungry because they lack access to the programs that can help. For example, less than 50% of school children who are eligible for free school breakfast receive it.

We’re breaking down the barriers that keep children from the food they need by expanding local anti-hunger partnerships (for example, in October we launched a partnership with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and Governor Beebe to end child hunger in Arkanas)  providing nutrition education through Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline); supporting local emergency food programs; and shining a national spotlight on hunger through our No Kid Hungry Campaign.

If you haven’t already please lend your voice to this movement by taking the No Kid Hungry Pledge at http://www.nokidhungry.org. Together, we’re going to end childhood hunger in America. Thank you for sharing your strength.