Hungry kids in the US aren't like hungry kids elsewhere
Well, kids and hunger were already an unfortunate intersection before this pandemic hit, and then it did hit.
And a lot of parents who stopped the larder their jobs went away a lot of schools where kids could count on for a breakfast, lunch, and after school snack, those closed and we hear about farmers having to tell under crops food by the millions of pounds because of all kinds of snarls in the food distribution system.
Billy Shore is here.
He is the founder of Share Our Strength and underneath that organization is No Kid Hungry.
And this is an org that's all about dealing with what it says.
They were in the game long before this pandemic but now we wanted to find out how things have pivoted.
And Billy, first thing I'd like you to describe for us is How many kids are hungry or food insecure?
Or where on the spectrum?
It's a very hard number for the average person to figure out what do you say?>>Well, of course, it's constantly changing with COVID.
But I would have said before this pandemic, we were dealing with 22 million kids in the United States, but we're getting a free or reduced price school lunch because of their families.
Very low income.
So if you take that as a as a proxy That's pretty good number 22 million.
Now of course we've got 50 million public school students who are out of school.
None of them are getting school lunch for school breakfast.
So it's a whole different challenge.
So right now would you say it's a number that is In determinant.
Yeah, we used to say that about one in seven kids lived with hunger experienced food insecurity in their family today that number is probably much closer to one and four and a correlates, as you would imagine.
Pretty tightly with job losses and unemployment, so with more than 22 million Americans filing for unemployment insurance in just the last four to five weeks, the number of kids who are gonna need food assistance goes up dramatically.
In our technology biz, we're always very keen on the specific meaning of terms.
Help me out understand how hungry and food insecure, are those just different terms to the same thing or is there a shade of meaning there?
It's a really good question, there is a shade of meaning.
They are often get confused, I'm glad you asked.
So when we think of hunger, we think of it in a physiological sense.
Kids who are not eating three meals a day and are being nutrionally
Food insecurity is a measure that our government uses and they actually survey people as part of census and other survey mechanisms and ask a battery of questions if you answer a certain number of them.
A certain way like, is there a time every month where you worry, you're not going to be able to pay your grocery bills?.
Is there a time where you worry that you may have to make short cuts in nutritional quality of your family's food?.
You maybe food insecure but your kids may not be hungry.
So, paradoxically we've got more poverty and food insecurity in this country than we have actual hunger.
At least that was the case before this pandemic.
Now You and everybody we know have seen the lines on television everywhere else at food banks for emergency food assistance.
We've got millions of Americans now who need help that didn't infer I think a full 40%
It's the first time they've gone to a food bank for assistance.
So we hear so much about food banks and we hear so much about federal school lunch program we those are just the common terms we average people know and we think those are two big sorts of camps that seem to be handling this.
Where do you fit in there with No Kid Hungry?.
What layer of this?.
Do you work in?.
Yeah, well, if I would have had one answer again before the pandemic,
Another answer now, we used to focus mostly on schools and we saw such a great opportunity, Brian because of the 22 million kids in this country who got a free or reduced price school lunch program, by the way, set up by generals and admirals after world war two.
Came to Congress and said our troops by the end of the war, we're not strong enough to fight we need to we need to start feeding kids in school better than we have been.
That's where this began.
of the 22 million kids who are getting lunch.
All 22 million were eligible for breakfast but only 9 million were getting it as recently as six or seven years ago is at lunch.
They're already there.
Breakfast you have to get there early.
There's the family logistics, the bus driver logistics, the stigma attached to being the kids who have to go to school early, and they stand out a little bit more than they would at lunch.
So we realized there was an opportunity there because it's bought and paid for for all of them.
This is a federal entitlement program, exempt from the automatic budget cuts of sequestration, meaning there's this Completely safe OASIS of support for kids.
But too many of them were disconnected from the program.
And so our signature had been to move kids breakfast from the cafeteria before school, to make it part of the school day, first period, or second period, or in between.
By doing that we added over three million kids to school breakfast and we saw everything that you would wanna see.
We saw test scores go up, attendance go up, visits to the nurses office go down.
Now to your question, all the schools are closed, so what are we doing?
We're feeding kids At schools outside of school, many schools have created grab-and-go meals or drive-by packages for families to come get.
In some cases, they're working with food banks, and so we're funding a lot of food banks.
Some cases, they're working with other local non-profits like YMCAs.
We're finding those as well.
Here's the leverage here.
This is what's so important is the food, the meals themselves are 100% federally reimbursed if they're school meals, but if you're not serving them in school, you're gonna need funding for personal protective equipment.
You're gonna need funding for transportation.
You're going to need funding to build a tent, outside the school.
Those are all the kind of things that the No Kid Hungry campaign is funding.
So when a parent is going to see that their child's getting a meal at the school number longer in the school, one of these sort of rapidly adapted new programs.
You guys are more than likely a financial engine behind it, but not necessarily the front interface that the parents going to perceive.
Is that right?>> That's exactly right.
So we've made in just the last five weeks, we've made about $9.9 million of grants to 380.
Some community organizations.
They're the ones who run the front line.
They're the ones who were kind of taking the risks that you have to take in this day and age to feed people.
But they don't have the funding and the resources they need.
Sometimes they needed technical assistance.
A lot of cases.
Brian they needed laws changed.
The law said that you could only give a meal to a kid if you wanted that meal to be federally reimbursed.
Parents aren't sending their kids to school.
They're going to school themselves to get the meal so we had to change that.
The law said you can only give a child one meal.
We had to make that so that you could give more than one meal so that families wouldn't have to come back to the school every day.
So we played a big role in getting the laws changed, now a role and funding all of these organisations so they have the equipment, the staff, the personnel, the supplies, the training they need.
Feed kids with this food that is paid for.
Is there any technology hurdles or things you've been able to embrace on the go here that have made this go a little better?
There's been one very big one, which is a food finding map and a food finding app and a texting program for families that want to know.
Where is the food closest to them?
Where can they get a meal?
So if you text 877877 and type in food, instantly what comes up is a list of the places in your community where you can get food that started out in a few states.
It's gone national.
You can find it on our website at nokidhungry.org.
Very interesting, didn't know about that.
I know that some of what you"ve done at least pre-pandemic was not just about providing the food but also about cooking, and shopping, and diet education, and skills.
Is that still very relevant or is more of a crisis mode now and just get the meals out there?
I'd say it's still relative I'd say in these first six or eight weeks it's been get the meals out there but we're finding that a lot of families need the know how the resources, the information to make great choices for their families.
So our program Program, which is called Cooking Matters has been one built on the conviction that families don't only need food and financial aid, that they need to know the best things they can do with it.
So for example, if you're on a limited budget, and how to carve up a chicken, if someone's taught to do that, you would buy a chicken whole instead of buying chicken parts and you would save.
Several dollars by doing that.
Knowing how to read a nutrition label, knowing how to read a unit pricing label.
So if you're going into a grocery store, particularly now while your finances are so strapped or compromised, knowing those things enables you to make better choices for your families.
That's a program that person teaching in families and in many cases moms, young moms, low income moms, how to make these choices how to use these resources.
Now we're trying to find some ways to do it digitally.
Billy, it seems like so much of the food business isn't really about the food.
It's about the logistics.
It's about two things.
I would say it's about logistics.
How do we get and connect kids and families to the foods that they need the resources that are there.
One of the things that to me is so compelling about the work we're doing right now is of all the aspects of this terrible COVID crisis.
To me, the one aspect that is the most solvable is this hunger and food, piece of it.
Kids in our country aren't hungry for the reasons that kids around the rest of the world are hungry.
It's not war, famine or drought.
It's poverty and our lack of ability to connect kids to it.
And the last two months we've been obsessed with shortages and ventilators and in masks and hospital beds, but we have no shortage of food.
We risk some shortages coming up or some supply chain interruptions.
But we've got the food so there's a logistical component to it.
But if you go back to the conversation we were having a moment ago, 22 million kids are getting lunch.
They're all eligible for breakfast wire only 9 million getting it instead of all 22 million.
Then you realize it's not just logistics.
It's a political issue.
There's nobody speaking up for these kids.
These kids, I mean, think about it.
Kids don't vote.
They don't make campaign contributions.
They don't have lobbyists.
So there's very few people speaking up for them in the corridors of power and our job has been to go to Governor's go to mayor's go to school superintendents, go to Congress.
Hey, let's get these kids enrolled.
Here's what we need to do it.
I'm curious what got you into this into this line of human services in the 501 c three world you've got a career going well back quite a ways in politics and then you've been in human benefit.
Public benefit corporate corporations vi one c threes for a long time, but what brought you to the hunger story in particular.
Yeah, it always just felt to me like a solvable problem.
There's a writer, Jonathan Kozol, talks about picking battles that are big enough to matter but small enough to win.
And that always attracted me.
There's so many things we all care about.
So in this country, what's big enough to matter, small enough to win.
Hunger, and particularly, childhood hunger felt solvable.
And I'd worked in government In the US Senate for quite a while I'd worked for senator Gary Hart from Colorado and was chief of staff to Buckcherry for Nebraska.
Between the two of them.
They had three losing presidential campaigns of which I was one of the principal architects.
But I realized it might be time for me to do something different, but took some of those community organizing skills and that passion for trying to make a difference in the community.
And decided to do that through the nonprofit work that we do at share strength.
What are you finding in terms of partnerships that are new under this pandemic?
You've got something going on with Pepsi co right now is that new during the pandemic era?
It is, there been so many companies so many Pepsi, Verizon, Taco Bell.
I can't even keep up with them who have approached us just in the last few weeks to say, we need to make a difference.
Our employees want us to make a difference are our customers, everybody expects that of us.
Now, I think what's happening is so compelling.
And frankly, we haven't even had to ask, we're in the business of asking for support.
We haven't had to ask we've not only had the companies like Pepsi that you mentioned.
We've had 37,000 individual donors in the last six weeks.
And so that's unprecedented for us.
And it's put the responsibility on us to get that money back out into the community.
I talked about some of the grants We've been making, we've made, I think, grants to 380 organizations in all 50 states now.
So that people can see that money, go to work and feed kids and families.
I want to finish with a talk about this idea of development and asking for support so you can continue to do what you do.
A lot of folks have never looked at a pie chart of where American's generosity goes and it's kind of roughly- Religious Education, human health those are your big ones.
Where do you fit in the tear of priority do you think with the food issue, just you and other ORGs like you, how high or low are you in that ladder of the average person's giving?
I'd say today it's become a lot higher than it has before.
I mean folks like to see local impact for their dollars.
Many folks contribute to community organizations as they should During a crisis like this, I think people have gravitated towards a trusted name or a trust brand, an organization that has national reach and can have an impact.
A lot of times you see really large wealthy donors supporting art museums, hospitals, universities Although that's critical, of course, but those institutions tend to have a voice and they tend to have relationships.
They tend to have alumni who can donate.
If you're in the business that I'm in.
The people we serve, don't tend to become.
Donors, many of them struggle with poverty and.
Income for their entire lives.
So we have to raise funds other ways.
You're at a time that's historic.
We're all on time.
It's historic around the idea of great need across a wide spectrum of society.
Everyone who's a 501(c)(3) is gonna be facing crisis fatigue and donor appeal fatigue.
What are you guys going to do to combat that as we go forward?
I think the most important thing that any of us can do is stay true to donor intent, help donors understand the impact that their dollars are having.
So we've got an obligation Not just to feed people, but to measure the number of people that we're feeding and to communicate that back to our donors.
As we talked about I think people wanna know that this is a solvable problem, we gotta demonstrate that and prove that.
And I think one of the things that could come out of this pandemic, if there's anything good that comes out of it and I'm not sure there will be but if there is it might be this notion that we've seen, we've never had 37 thousand donors in six weeks.
People are starting to see for themselves, the schools are closed what happens to these kids that depended on these meals?
That was the story we were always pushing, out people were kind of pulling.
Us into it to say I realize there's this need what can I do?
Billy Shore is the founder and CEO of No Kid Hungry which is part of Share Our Strength.
Billy, just one more time.
Give us the text number for that food map and where folks can go to donate.
Yeah, thank you again and thanks for shining a spotlight on this, Brian.
The text number is 877-877 type in food, you'll get information instantly Our website no kid hungry.org has information on how to donate how to be an advocate for your members of congress.
All the different ways you can get involved in no kid hungry.org
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