Posts Tagged ‘childhood hunger’

Share Your Strength for Childhood Hunger

Earthkeeping means caring for our planet … but it also means caring for the people who share it with us.  And leading the pack when it comes to caring for America’s children and their struggle with hunger is Bill Shore, Timberland board member and the founder and executive director of Share our Strength.

Billy was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s program Talk of the Nation, as part of the program’s coverage of the issue of childhood hunger – a critical issue impacting millions of children in the United States, and one President Obama has pledged to end by 2015.  You can listen to the entire program here:

How to help?

  • Support your local food bank in their efforts to get nutritious food to the families in your community that need it.  (Timberland’s front-lawn “Victory Garden” produce is sold to our employees and proceeds go to the NH Food Bank … employees love the fresh veggies and the food bank appreciates the support!)
  • Email your Senators and Representative in support of the Child Nutrition Bill, critical legislation that will further the efforts to end childhood hunger in America.


We’re thankful for the leadership, vision and commitment of Bill Shore — Timberland board member and founder and executive director of Share Our Strength , the nation’s leading organization endeavoring to end childhood hunger:

I’ve always been an early riser. One of the things I love most about Maine in summer is that the dawn breaks as early as 4:30 a.m.  I’m usually waiting at the window to catch it. My writing or whatever I’m working on brightens with the new day.  This weekend before Thanksgiving in late November I am still up early. But the wait for daybreak is much longer. It is nearly 6:30 before I get to feel anything other than alone in the darkness.  Finally, a thin line of light appears on the horizon.

This long wait for darkness to lift must be what millions of our fellow Americans feel, trapped by recession, many for the first time in their lives, without jobs and increasingly without food, waiting … waiting… for the dawn to break. Two reports released this month evoke the words of poet William Stafford that “the darkness around us is deep.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its annual report, which showed a record 49 million Americans in 2008 struggling with whether they would have enough to eat. The number of children who experienced the most severe hunger increased from 700,000 to more than 1 million.

And just this morning, Share Our Strength released a survey, prepared by Lake Research Partners showing that this year, 62% of public school teachers are seeing children who regularly come to school hungry because they don’t get enough to eat at home.  The problem is serious enough that 63% of teachers use funds from their own relatively low salaries to buy food for hungry kids in their classroom.

In the darkness it is easy to misdiagnose a problem. When one does, the prescription for treating it is likely to be wrong.  That often happens with hunger in America. Children in our country are not hungry because we lack food, or because we lack food and nutrition programs.  We are blessed with abundance of both, and for more than 25 years there has been bipartisan support for effective food programs like school lunch, school breakfast and food stamps.

Children in America who are hungry are hungry because they aren’t enrolled in these programs.  Even in a weak economy, that is a solvable problem. But it requires more than the federal expansion of food and nutrition programs (which we also support). It requires working at the state and local levels to close the gap in the number of children who are already eligible for such programs but not enrolled or participating.

Maybe families don’t know the programs exist. Maybe kids can’t get to them. Our work is sometimes as simple as staffing a hotline to connect children with summer feeding sites in their neighborhood, or as complicated as lobbying for universal breakfast in the classroom, which tackles the challenge of kids not getting to school early enough for free breakfast, and the stigma that often prevents them from participating.

The barriers that keep children from programs that can prevent hunger are varied – and our strategy is tackling every one – state by state. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Denver with Colorado Governor Ritter to announce the launch of just such an effort, much as we’ve done with Governor O’Malley in Maryland and will be doing with others around the U.S. Our strategy is working, our network is growing in size and influence and we’re more certain than ever that we can end childhood hunger by 2015, but we need your continued support .

As governors with shrinking state budgets find themselves cutting social programs they’d prefer to grow, Share Our Strength’s strategy offers a ray of hope by bringing badly needed and already authorized federal dollars into their states to help feed children. Given projections that unemployment will remain at 10% or above through 2010, that states will continue to struggle with budget crises, as will food banks with shortages, Share Our Strength’s state-based strategy is the fastest, most realistic way to ensure that children get fed.

During the holiday season’s predictable media coverage of food banks and families in need of emergency assistance, it is worth noting that the USDA reports that just one in five families enrolled in programs like food stamps and school meals has actually visited a food pantry.  Standing in a line at a food pantry in crisis is the last place a family should be. If instead, they are taking advantage of programs that stretch their food budget, teach them how to shop for and cook nutritious foods, and ensure that their children have free school and summer meals, they will never need to be there. This is the work that Share Our Strength is doing, and we need your continued support.

Please make the most generous gift possible this year, and help ensure that our work continues.

As I finish writing this, the sun has climbed high in the sky. I’m reminded that increasingly Share Our Strength’s role is to help bring light where there has been darkness, to educate hungry families and local government officials about untapped existing resources for feeding kids.

Thanks for all you are doing to help. Our early successes leave us confident of achieving our ambitious goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.  Once we do, there will be at least one less reason for families to wait anxiously for the dawn.

- Billy Shore

Board Dinner Meets Taco Night; Hungry Kids Benefit

Part of the regular governance of a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange is … board meetings.

Part of the regular cycle of board meetings is … board dinners, usually the night before.

Last night, Timberland’s board met for dinner at Andy Husbands’ restaurant — Tremont 647 in Boston.

$2 tacos are a Tuesday night phenomenon in the South End at Andy’s place — but because of the Hell’s Kitchen show, Tuesday tacos moved to Wednesday night.  Even though I can’t eat it (the kosher kid brings his own delicacies…), I figured the Board would enjoy some local cool cuisine.  So, they started with tacos.

Quickly enough, we ended up with the regular menu.  The Board is cool, but the cuisine was … hot … and so, back to the menu.

Andy came in to say hello.  As a TV star part of Gordon Ramsay‘s Hell’s Kitchen, Andy is a pretty hip celeb these days.

But not for the cuisine, not for the celebrity shoulder rubbing — not for those reasons did I take the Board to Tremont 647.

No, when Timberland’s shareholders pay for the Board’s dinner, they insist that we not just feed our desire for a good mea l– they insist that we use their funds to high purpose, the purpose of commerce and justice. So, when we schedule a business dinner, we host them in a restaurant affiliated with Share Our Strength (SOS) – a national nonprofit organization focused on ending childhood hunger in America.

Share Our Strength restaurants support the effort by donating a portion of their profits to SOS, or participating in one of the organization’s fund-and awareness-raising events … Andy and his team at Tremont 647 do both.  Andy has been actively engaged with SOS for years, and his restaurant has hosted SOS’s Boston Operation Frontline program for more than a decade — providing space and support for more than 5,000 people to receive nutrition education, food budgeting strategies and cooking skills.  In the real world, that kind of teaching is infinitely more valuable than anything Gordon Ramsay could dish out.  Hell’s Kitchen is a clever TV concept, but a high-brow restaurant delighting its clientele and serving to end childhood hunger — this is, Heaven trumps Hell.  Period.

The intersection of commerce and justice lives at Tremont 647.  With equal attention and passion, Andy serves Tibetan Momo Dumplings and serves the needs of children at risk for hunger … and from the comfort of our table, we fill our heads with business talk while helping to fill the bellies of kids who don’t have enough food.  The work of changing the world doesn’t always feel like work; in the right company, in the right atmosphere, it can be downright delicious.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland