Sunday, April 23, 2017

What’s Different About This Picture?


               If a picture is worth a thousand words this one is yet another example of how Share Our Strength has and continues to transform the restaurant industry and larger culinary world in the service of our No Kid Hungry campaign.
             

  I took the photo Saturday night in the kitchen of one of our favorite restaurants called Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, Maine.  Chef Justin Walker will be riding Chefs Cycle this year for the third time. He opened his restaurant Saturday, a few weeks before the season begins, for this special event to raise money for his ride.  It was completely sold out and earlier in the day we saw his wife Danielle in town driving a pick-up truck around town picking up extra chairs so they could squeeze in a few more guests.

            “I spend so much time on my bike because I know it is helping to feed more kids,” Justin told the guests. Maine’s long frigid winters mean a short training season for the May 16-18 ride in California. So Justin keeps two bikes and a trainer in the kitchen on which he can mount his bike while supervising his team and sometimes even prepping food himself. A Chef Cycle rider’s gotta do what a Chefs Cycle rider’s gotta do.

            Justin will be one of nearly 250 chefs riding this May in Santa Rosa.  Next year there will no doubt be closer to 400 riders.  Already Chefs Cycle has attracted thousands of new first-time donors.  Bringing a larger audience to our work is one of our key strategic imperatives. It’s the way movements grow, pictures change, and social progress advances.  Not always as quickly as we’d like, but as unmistakably as a kitchen that once contained pots, pans, sinks, trays and now houses a couple of world class road bikes.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Back In The Saddle Again


           I’m training for my third annual 300 mile Chefs Cycle bike ride of the last three years – joined by more than 250 other riders this time.
 
            This year’s ride, from May 16-18,  aims to raise $2 million for our No Kid Hungry campaign, compared to the $1 million raised last year.  Here’s why I hope you’ll consider supporting my ride:

It is a commitment that entails months of hard work and almost a year of anxiety. The first year I rode to show the flag and convince others that if I could do it, anyone could.  It was so much fun that I rode again last year.  But this year it is because the goal is such an important one for expanding our No Kid Hungry campaign. So it is all hands on deck, all legs peddling, even the old ones.  The $2 million raised will means millions more school breakfasts and summer meals, giving kids a better chance to succeed at school than they’ve had before. 

All of us are learning anew that we are capable or more than we imagined. It’s true for each rider, for our entire organization, and for you too.  The great thing is that the ride has taken on a life of its own with literally thousands of new first time donors and supporters committed to the success of our No Kid Hungry campaign. I’m more confident than ever that we will succeed.

Monday, March 13, 2017

From Fighting Against Hunger to Fighting For Social Justice


             The injustice of inequality has found its way into the culinary community. It’s probably been obvious to you for a while, but one thing that Add Passion and Stir enabled me to see more clearly is the dramatic evolution of the chef, restaurant and culinary community from helping to fight hunger to innovating in the fight for social justice. Many are going beyond charitable work to use their businesses to leverage systemic change on equity, justice, and sustainability matters. The range of issues they are involved in represents a dramatic shift with profound consequence both for the impact they can have, and for our need to keep up with their interests.

            Just look at the diverse examples:

n  Sarah Polon, Soupergirl, changing the world one bowl of soup at a time, through a locally sourced, plant-based business.

n  Mary Sue Milliken addressing “the broken food system”. 


n  Bill Telepan and Marc Murphy, advocating for healthier school means via Wellness in Schools,

n  Sam Polk, making healthy prepared foods affordable for all thru EveryTable

n  Jose Andres working with the UN Foundation to promote clean cookstoves to end the epidemic of disease killing women and children in Haiti 

            Today’s new generation of chefs  are about more than charity fundraising events. They are about advocacy, sustainability, policy and systemic change.. They are helping to feed America’s hungry kids, but are also going beyond that. They see food policy as a social justice issue. They are creating options for their customers to impact agriculture, supply chain, energy and the environment, and children’s health.
            For many, Share Our Strength and our No Kid Hungry campaign helped plant the seed. Shoots and leaves have sprouted in many different directions but all have blossomed toward the sun - and are still growing.

            All Add Passion and Stir episodes can be found at http://addpassionandstir.com/ and on iTunes @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/add-passion-and-stir/id1164624510?mt=2
 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Food Is The Glue Of The Society In Which We Live"


           We’ve just released the latest episode of Add Passion and Stir with Dr. Debbie Frank and chef Ming Tsai.  It’s rich in stories about how and where food has changed or saved a life.

 

One of my favorite passages, from Ming Tsai, evokes the wonder behind virtually everything we eat: “I love this book called Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh:  It’s about when you are eating an apple, don’t be texting, don’t be driving, don’t be watching TV, eat the apple, think about the apple, savor it. Where did it come from? How did it grow?  How did it get here? It got washed, it got put on a train, finally one farmer got you that apple. When you start thinking about the apple , when you start appreciating the actual apple, you eat more slowly, which is one of the biggest issues with obesity because you are full 20 minutes before your mind knows you’re full, and when you are full you stop eating, and you stop food waste.”

 

            Thich Nhat Hanh writes about many manifestations of mindfulness and I’m glad it’s made its way into our podcast – as greater mindfulness about food, hunger for it, and how food both satisfies and heals is an important element of achieving No Kid Hungry. The episode is @ http://addpassionandstir.com/preventing-disaster-babies-and-public-policies/

Billy

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Resisting Our Own Complacency and Complicity


With a new Executive Order forthcoming on immigration, I’m grateful to the American Academy of Pediatrics for speaking out on behalf of the most vulnerable children among us. https://tinyurl.com/jzeburx  

The Academy said: “Federal authorities must exercise caution to ensure that the emotional and physical stress children experience as they seek refuge in the United States is not exacerbated by the additional trauma of being separated from their siblings, parents or other relatives and caregivers. Proposals to separate children from their families as a tool of law enforcement to deter immigration are harsh and counterproductive.  We urge policymakers to always be mindful that these are vulnerable, scared children.”

It’s easy to imagine pediatricians staying focused on more immediate issues like health care, Medicaid, or even childhood hunger and nutrition. But fortunately they also see the connection between their work and the reckless immigration policy changes now underway.  Even though they are not an immigration advocacy organization per se, the American Academy of Pediatrics is willing to stick out their necks when too few others have.

For every service and advocacy nonprofit whose mission is to serve the underserved and the most vulnerable and voiceless, whether or not their organization focuses specifically on immigration, this is a great example of how to speak up and speak out in ways most relevant to the times in which we find ourselves. It would be even better if such organizations committed to expanding programming toward those being persecuted, and especially in “sanctuary cities” that are at risk of losing government funding as the price for their political and moral courage.

Most important of all is a commitment to backing up words with actions.  Blog posts and Facebook messages are not enough. The forces behind this inexcusable cruelty expect our complaints, but also expect we will soon return to business as usual. The most important thing of all to resist is our own complacency and unintended complicity.

 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Inexcusable Cruelty


The two stories below speak of inexcusable cruelty in the way our nation’s immigration and deportation policies are now being executed.  Our government’sa actions fly in the face of family values, safeguarding children, not to mention just and moral behavior.
 
 

Everyone has a moral obligation to speak up and speak out.  As Elie Wiesel cautioned: “Let us remember, that what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

I’m haunted by history’s lessons that suggest we will one day look back and ask how we remained silent and complacent in the face of such behavior.

Ron Charles is the editor of Book World in the Washington Post and on Twitter I thanked him for posting the L.A. story. He wrote me back:  “I can only pray that stories like this awaken people's conscience and enrich their affections.  Let's hope he’s right.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Young and younger, special needs and our special focus


Last Friday Rosemary, Debbie and I visited the Y2Y Shelter at Harvard Square - the only student run shelter in the country for young adults between 18-24 experiencing homelessness. In Boston that about 150 a night. It’s a cohort with special needs, unlikely to feel safe in an adult shelter. Y2Y has 30 beds, serves dinner and breakfast, and offers counseling to connect young people to social services. Boston has only one other facility for young adults, with 12 beds.

Founders Sam Goldstein, age 24 and Sarah Rosencranz, 25 gave us a tour while half a dozen Harvard students scrubbed bathrooms, cleared breakfast tables, and loaded a mountain of dirty laundry – bed sheets and towels - into 3 of the 4 working machines.  Some volunteer as much as 20 hours a week on top of a full course schedule. 

About 36% of the guests have previously been in the foster system. 32% have spent a night in jail.  Approximately 30% are LGTBQ who left home once they came out to their parents which today happens at a younger age than before. “Our goal is to help them break the cycle so they don’t become chronically, permanently homeless” says Sarah who explains that 89% of their guests say that they have a concrete plan out of homelessness after their stay at Y2Y.  See https://tinyurl.com/zcrx3yq

From there we went to record a podcast with chef Ming Tsai and Dr. Debbie Frank from the Grow Clinic at the Boston Medical Center. Dr Frank’s patients are mostly under two years of age. She says “public policy is written on the bodies of the babies I see … Some come in with rickets, from lack of vitamin D, which causes a bending and bowing of their legs.”   But not everything lends itself to an “eyeball diagnosis” Dr Frank tells us.  She described an 8 month old whose mother didn’t understand why he was failing to thrive. She’s been feeding him a cornmeal and sugar water mush and he wasn’t complaining but was getting sicker. “They were saving on food costs because they anticipated their landlord evicting them soon – not for failure to pay rent, but because of the need to make space for one of the landlord’s family members.”

Our morning and afternoon conversations had a common thread: the young – from college students to infants and toddlers -  are vulnerable in unique ways most don’t appreciate, and fail to adequately serve.  That’s why children have been our focus at Share Our Strength and why we need to be especially vigilant in the days ahead as those we serve could be impacted by potential changes to Medicaid, SNAP, and other policy shifts.

            (Also, because national security advisors are in the news this week, it’s worth noting that former President Bill Clinton’s national security advisor Anthony Lake who is now the Executive Director of UNICEF,  wrote an op-ed called Dark Days For Children about the tremendous suffering on the global scale that made 2016  “one of the worst years for children since World War II.”   He  underscores the need “to harness innovation to expand our capacity to reach children who are cut off from assistance in besieged areas or communities” https://tinyurl.com/gmknmb5 )