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.

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.

The Greatest Generation

By Ed Nicholson

Please indulge me as I go off-topic today (the first time in almost two years).

My Dad is a personal hero. He’s done some incredibly heroic things in his life, not the least of which was flying missions as a tail-gunner/radio operator in a Navy TBF torpedo bomber from carriers in the Pacific in 1944-45. He wrote a memoir about the experiences which I posted here. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to respect the sacrifices he and his generation have made.

So it was with both pride and  humility that I attended the announcement today of the inaugural Honor Flight from Northwest Arkansas, sponsored by local companies, Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, which will take a planeload of vets to D.C. to visit the WWII Memorial.   Kudos to Tyson Director of Aviation, Bill McKenzie  for taking the lead on this project and putting the flight together.  We’re hopeful they can occur on a regular basis.

John Little, a veteran of the Invasion of Normandy,  who now lives in Kingston, Arkansas, and will be a passenger on the first Northwest Arkansas Honor Flight, spoke at the announcement today.  His story, is moving, powerful, and inspiring.

This is a generation of men and women that has survived adversity most of us can only imagine.  They’ve done it with incredible courage, honor and dignity, and many of them have been all too quiet about their experiences.  They’re leaving us very quickly.  Their stories deserve to be heard and preserved.

If you are close to someone from this generation–whether they served in the military or not–I urge you to sit them down and get them to talk about their life.  Put a video camera or tape recorder in front of them.  You’ll be glad you did.