Filling Bellies for a Brighter Future

The fight to eradicate childhood hunger by 2015.

PARENTGUIDE News’ own Samantha Chan covered the New York City screening of Hunger Hits Home. Food Network chef Sandra Lee has been the spokesperson for Share Our Strength for seven years The issue of childhood hunger hits close to home for Sandra Lee, who was raised on food stamps. Pat and Gina Neely, TV chefs and restaurateurs lend their support to the cause. From left to right, Geoffrey Zakarian, Amanda Freitag, Aaron Sanchez, Tim Allen and Alex Guarnaschelli, were all present at the screening. Food Network stars Aaron Sanchez, Alex Guarnaschelli and Tim Allen. Television chef and restaurateur Amanda Freitag. Samantha Chan discusses childhood hunger with the Neelys. New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s Executive Director Joel Berg poses for a picture with the Founder and CEO of Share Our Strength Bill Shore. From left to right: Tim Allen, Aaron Sanchez, Gine Neely, Pat Neely, Brook Johnson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag, Bill Shore and Geoffrey Zakarian. Share Our Strength. Brook Johnson, president of Food Network, speaks before premiering the documentary. Food Network Chef Sandra Lee. Founder and CEO of Share Our Strength Bill Shore. Tim Allen and Samantha Chan.

The United States cannot adequately feed 16.2 million of its youth. In the documentary Hunger Hits Home, the partnership between Food Network and Share Our Strength brings light to the hidden crisis of childhood hunger in America.

Jeff Bridges narrates the film, which introduces viewers to the wide range of families who are affected by hunger. Viewers meet a single-income family living in New York City that has to travel as far as 40 minutes away just to get fresh produce. A father, who formerly had a white-collar job, now works out of his garage, struggling to put food on the table for his son. They aren’t all impoverished families. They’re everyday people. It could be your neighbor who doesn’t have enough to eat.

A contributing factor to this problem includes ongoing economic downturn. Parents simply cannot afford to consistently put healthy food on the table for their children. While programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist for those in need, they often aren’t enough. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 40.3 million Americans per month used SNAP in 2010.

Many know this issue all too well. “Sure, I was raised on welfare and food stamps,” says Sandra Lee, television chef and author who grew up on food stamps. “For me, to be associated with Share Our Strength is a real blessing because I understand whom the children are that they represent. I feel that I’m the spokesperson for these children,” she affirms at the New York City screening of Hunger Hits Home— available for viewing at www.foodnetwork.com/hungry.

Lee has been the spokesperson for Share Our Strength for seven years. This documentary is the culmination of years of hard work. “I think it’s a really important message that everyone needs to hear and understand today in our society,” Lee adds. “There is a real need in the U.S. because everyday 16.2 million children every day need to be fed and they’re not.”

The ultimate goal of Share Our Strength is to abolish childhood hunger by 2015. Television and restaurant chefs Pat and Gina Neely give insight on how Share Our Strength’s goal can be reached. Gina points out that “It’s very important that we understand that this [is more than] a Government Issue. This is a humanistic issue. We ourselves can get involved. This is the one time that we can all take a stand together.” Pat adds, “If nothing but made aware that 1 out of 5 children go hungry most nights, and we all pitch in, all do our part, all play our role, if everyone fed one child, it could end. That’s if we all make it a priority.”

A friend of Gina Neely’s is a schoolteacher who spends her personal funds to buy snacks for her kindergarten class, because without it, many of the children would remain hungry. She is just one of many people making a difference.

Other well-known chefs and restaurateurs, including Geoffrey Zakarian, Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Ted Allen and Alex Guarnaschelli, are involved, aiming to inspire politicians, educators, families and individuals to become active in stopping childhood hunger. There are small steps everyone can take. It is all about bringing nutritious food to all the places that American children live, learn and play.

Tips to Get Involved:

Pat Neely says to pick up one or two additional canned or dried food items each week. Then, visit your local food bank or mission, or a church that has a pantry. He also suggests visiting schools and places that offer afterschool programs for children. See if you can donate food or volunteer to help deliver food to participating children.

Geoffrey Zakarian believes that with so much information available online, families can see what a dollar gets families in need. “It’s all about donating what you can,” Zakarian explains. Look into your account options at your bank. Many financial institutions have the option to automatically send out donations to charitable organizations, such as food banks and soup kitchens.