No Kid Hungry in Arkansas. A beginning.

Share Our Strength Founder and Executive Director Billy Shore announcing the No Kid Hungry in Arkansas initiative

 

Arkansas—our home state—ranks  11th in the U.S. among states for total agricultural production.  Lots of food produced here. 
 
Yet according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, it ranks #1—worst—among states with the highest percentage of children at risk of hunger.
 
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe thinks it’s time something is done to erase that paradox.   That’s why he was very receptive when Share Our Strength approached him this past summer at the National Governors Conference with their No Kid Hungry state strategy.  

Their ensuing discussions resulted in an announcement on Friday of a new partnership focusing on drastically reducing childhood hunger in our home state. 

The collaboration brings parties to the table who have all worked toward alleviating hunger and poverty, yet who’ve never worked together as one before.  The lead agency in the effort, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, which includes all of the state’s major food banks, will help implement Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry strategy.  Other key players include state agencies, such as the Arkansas Department of Human Services; the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services; other non-profit organizations focusing on child welfare and hunger; and private sector partners. 

Because it’s going to take a collaborative effort to achieve this lofty goal.

Wal-Mart generously provided a $150,000 grant to ensure the effort is adequately funded to start.

We were at the announcement with a donation of 180,000 pounds to the state’s six food banks in support of the project. 

The three fundamental components of the strategy:
• Increasing access to public and private programs that provide food to children and their families.
• Strengthening community resources that connect children to healthy food.
• Improving families’ knowledge about available programs and how to get the most from limited resources.

Kudos to Governor Beebe and Share Our Strength for starting this process.  It’s up to all of us to see that it’s successful.

It’s Friday Afternoon. Know Where Your Kids Are?

 I originally put this post up last February.  As we near the end of the school year, it’s important to consider just how important school lunch is to the nutritional needs of some kids.  And what is going to happen in a few weeks when summer vacation begins.

 

By Ed Nicholson                                                                           photo by eyeliam–Creative Commons

A colleague of mine came into the office last year with a compelling story.  Her eight year-old grandson frequently spent time with her on weekends. Often he was accompanied by a good friend: a normal looking kid; clean, well-dressed, well-mannered.. The friend had a voracious appetite, eating just about everything in his path.  When my colleague made a lighthearted comment about how much he could pack away, he said, “We don’t eat much at my house on the weekend.”   Turns out, life was pretty tough for this kid.  His single dad was making some choices that didn’t exactly put nutrition at the top of the priority list for his family.

Unfortunately, this kind of story is way too common in our land of plenty.

It’s Friday afternoon here in the Ozarks.  Along about the time this posts, school kids around the country will be eating lunch.  For some of them, it will be the last good meal they’ll have until Monday.  If  I’m reading the charts correctly, over 15 million kids participate in the free school lunch program.  For a lot of these kids, the school lunch program is their lifeline; there just aren’t three squares on the weekends and holidays. 

We know there are lots of stories about these kids out there.  If  you have one  and would like to tell it here, leave us a comment, and we’ll get with you.  You can guest post, or just let us tell it.

Meanwhile, there are lots of ways you can help.  Go to the Share Our Strength or Feeding America web sites.  Or go visit your local food bank. 

No kid should dread the weekend.

Big Hearts, Big Minds Come Together to Discuss Hunger Solutions

 

 

Participants in the WeCanEndThis Cause Lab

By Ed Nicholson
On Monday, I had the privilege of sitting in on the first WeCanEndThis Cause Lab, a day-long think tank at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, focused on arriving at new solutions to the problem of hunger in the U.S.   Big vision guy, Scott Henderson conceived the event, and assembled it with with CauseShift partners Anne Bertelsen and Brian Reich, along with an all-star cast of non-profit and corporate partners (full-disclosure: Tyson Foods was a partner).

Altogether, the event drew a couple hundred participants throughout the day: a diverse bunch that included not only professional hunger fighters, but social good advocates from outside the cause, and socially-minded techsters.  A full overview of who, what and how can be found at WeCanEndThis.com so I won’t go into detail here.  Go check it out; it was a very interesting day.

Here’s why I think the event was a worthwhile investment of all of the participants’ time and resources:

  • If hunger is to be "solved,"  (and I think all of us in the game hold great hope that’s something that can occur), it won’t happen because one organization makes it happen.  And it won’t happen if all of us keep a singleminded focus on our own  organizational objectives (as worthy as they might be).   It’s going to take a collaborative effort among every single person and group now out there working on the cause.  It’s going to take competitors working together.  That happened here,  with Share Our Strength and Feeding America coming to the table, as well as Tyson and ConAgra, and others in the  consulting, tech and social services sectors who might otherwise compete for resources or share of mind. I think a lot of smart people have come to that realization, and you’re beginning to see more collaboration than ever before.
  • The solution (or more likely, solutions) to hunger won’t come solely from those currently leading the fight. It’s going to take more people; intelligent, innovative people; people totally unencumbered by a "been there, done that, won’t work" mindset.  It’s going to take more and more people who, in studying the problem, arrive at the gut check that hunger is in every community, and in some way, affects every single one of us.  In this one place, on this one day, I hope there were some new converts, who will stay involved as WeCanEndThis embarks upon the rest of a year-long noble experiment.

 

Learning from our children

By Ed Nicholson     

Share Our Strength has received some tremendous support from the Food Network in the past couple of years, not the least of which is their bringing on Aaron McCargo, Jr. (also known as "Big Daddy") as a celebrity supporter of Share Our Strength programs.  

The great thing about Aaron McCargo, Jr.  is that he’s simply not a paid shill for the cause (and there are paid celebrity shills for causes).  He ‘s lived around hungry kids.  He has street cred.  You can tell his enagagement in hunger relief is authentic, heartfelt and sincere. 

In the video above, he tells a story of how his son teaches him about doing the right thing.  With apologies for the audio (I was sitting a distance away).

Spending some time with friends

 

 

photo courtesy of Share Our Strength

By Ed Nicholson     

For the next few days, I’ll be attending the annual Share Our Strength Conference of Leaders in Our Nation’s Capital.  It’s the ninth such conference I’ve attended since Tyson formally committed to the fight against hunger in 2000.

This year marks Share Our Strength’s 25th anniversary, so the conference will be a celebration, looking back on remarkable accomplishments and forward to a strategy that’s more finely tuned than at any time in the group’s history.  Put simply, Share Our Strength has dedicated its focus to seeing an end to childhood hunger in the U.S. While several–including most notably President Obama–have signed on to the same goal (thank goodness!), Share Our Strength was among the first to recognize it as something that can and absolutely should be accomplished in our lifetime.

We love this organization.  They brought us to the table and have taught us so much about the issue of hunger.  They stood by us when, to be honest, it might not have been politically correct to do so. They continue to recognize us as partners, even though, because of the nature of our business, it’ll be a while before we’re part of any organization’s "marketing club," those brands contributing millions in cash every year.  They truly live by their core principle that everyone has a strength to share.

We’ve developed some dear friends within Share Our Strength in the past decade: the dedicated, passionate people who work on the staff, and the tremendous folks who are the organization’s supporters.

What a joy it is seeing them again!

Stay tuned here as we live blog some of the events of the conference, including the Service Day today.