Editor’s Note: Jeff Bridges has worked for more than 30 years on issues concerning childhood hunger here and abroad. He founded the End Hunger Network in 1983 to organize the entertainment industry around this cause. Since 2010, Jeff has been the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America.
Jeff Bridges is the national spokesperson for the "No Kid Hungry" Campaign
No Kid Hungry aims to end childhood hunger in America
Campaign also provides free meals for kids 18 and younger throughout the summer
No Kid Hungry also teaches low-income families how to shop smarter
When I was growing up, I had everything I needed. My wonderful parents, Dorothy and Lloyd, made sure we had nutritious food and they taught us where food came from.
I have been blessed in many ways, and my wife, Sue, and I have been fortunate enough to pass that on to our own four daughters. We’ve never had to worry about how we’d feed our family.
Other families in America are not as fortunate as I have been.
Few Americans realize that the majority of low-income children in this country get most of their nutrition at school. Whether it’s the free breakfast, reduced-priced lunch or after-school snacks, these federally funded meal programs provide a critical safety net for families struggling to put food on the table.
However, there is a huge gap in the number of children who could be getting these meals and the number actually accessing them.
For instance, many children are not getting the food they need in the summer. When school is out, many children lose their primary source of nutrition. Of the 20 million children who get lunch at school during the regular school year, only 1 in 7 are getting free meals in the summertime.
The breakfast statistics are sobering as well. Of the same 20 million children who get lunch at school, only 10.5 million kids are eating school breakfast. That kind of gap is unacceptable.
Kids who come to school hungry get sick more frequently. They have more trouble concentrating on their schoolwork and struggle with their studies. This has a huge effect on their potential for success later in life, and that’s not good for our country. As my good friend (and founder of Share Our Strength) Bill Shore always says, we can’t have a strong America with weak kids.
That’s where the No Kid Hungry campaign works so beautifully.
It connects kids to the healthy food they need every day, where they live, learn and play. This happens through partnerships with schools, mayors, state governors, political leaders, nonprofit organizations, corporations, chefs, celebrities such as me and with people like you. The campaign works to come up with innovative ways to bridge this gap.
For example, moving school breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom – where everyone eats together – means more kids start the day with a healthy meal. Breakfast after the bell programs have already been championed in cities such as Baltimore and Los Angeles, and they’re working really well.
There is good news for kids who need meals this summer, too. The Summer Food Service Program – a federally funded program – provides free meals for people 18 and younger in cities all across America. This year, a national texting program has been put in place to help connect even more kids to meals.
And No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters program ensures kids are getting healthy meals at home by empowering low-income families with the skills to shop smarter, use nutrition information and cook delicious, affordable meals.
Our children are our future, and it’s up to me – and to all of us – to make sure we prepare them to be productive citizens and thrive in our communities. Ensuring our kids have the nutritious food they need is the very first step to getting them there.
Join me in making No Kid Hungry a reality.