Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges came to Washington, D.C. yesterday to roll out a new campaign as national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry Campaign. “This is the most significant thing I’ve ever done,” he told reporters.
The nationwide effort launched by hunger advocates at Share Our Strength pledges to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.
“Millions of our kids can’t learn in school because they are hungry.” Bridges said. “Public charities, food banks, and church pantries are doing more than ever before, but they can’t keep up with the need.”
Bridges said the campaign is not proposing any new government programs, but they do have a plan to address the gaps where existing federal programs, like the school lunch program or food stamps, can effectively fill in by expanding their access.
Jeff Bridges with school children – Share Our Strength Photo on Flickr (all rights reserved)
Nearly 17 million children in America – almost 1 in 4 -struggle with hunger, according to a 2009 U.S. Agriculture Department report.
“Like other western democracies, we must end hunger through governmental leadership,” said Bridges, who got noticeably choked up near the end of a Q&A session at the National Press Club. He was asked, “What is the greatest challenge you’ve ever faced as a ‘famous person’?” Tears preceded his answer: Ending childhood hunger.
The plan of action, developed by Share Our Strength, was endorsed by several governors who have already committed to the effort. The group’s founder and executive director, Bill Shore, said that comprehensive anti-hunger strategies will be up and running in more than 15 states by the end of 2011, with the goal of eventually partnering in all 50 states. Major corporations are also on board.
“We anticipate enormous political pressure to cut the deficit rather than increase spending, said Shore. “Fortunately, our model for ending childhood hunger focuses not on increased spending, but on practical partnerships that advance nutrition education and increased participation in programs that have garnered bipartisan support for many years.”
Existing state No Kid Hungry partnerships to end hunger show strong results, even during a recession. For instance, the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger in Colorado increased summer meals by 26 percent in 2010. The Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger helped expand summer meal programs to all of the state’s 67 counties, up from 38 counties in 2004.
“The framework that is already working in these states demonstrates what a little ingenuity can achieve,” said Shore.
Over the last 25 years, Share Our Strength has raised more than $280 million and provided funding to more than 1,000 community organizations working to end childhood hunger.
TAKE The PLEDGE, and see how you can help, at NoKidHungry.org.
WATCH the video below, an interview with Bridges and Shore, from CNN
Mr. Bridges won the 2010 Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the film Crazy Heart. There is already ‘Oscar buzz’ about his upcoming roles in a Christmas release of True Grit — produced by the Cohen Brothers — and Tron Legacy. Most recently, he also appeared in The Men Who Stare at Goats and Iron Man.