Wednesday, May 9, 2018

One Of The Best Food Assistance Developments Of All: More Jobs

This past weekend almost every newspaper and news website in the country had at least one headline in common: the jobless rate of 3.9% is at a 17-year low after 91 straight months of job growth that began during the Obama Administration.  On top of the historic progress we’ve already made through the No Kid Hungry campaign, this may have as great an impact on childhood hunger now and in the years ahead as anything else we do.  When the number of unemployed is cut by more than half, and millions more are working, there are certainly many more parents able to feed their families on their own.

We tend not to focus as much on macro-economic trends as we do on school breakfast legislation, and new summer meals sites, but we should.  Those we serve are embedded in these statistics. Our work is not in isolation from but intimately connected to these economic forces, more so than most issues.  We’re in search of an economist who will share his or her strength by volunteering to help us better understand the correlations between employment and wage growth with childhood hunger.  For now, I urge all of us to keep at least one eye on the bigger picture.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Here We Go Again: Chefs Cycle One More Time

In just 10 days, Tom and I will be at it again – in Santa Rosa for our fourth 300-mile Chefs Cycle ride.  As we find our place among the pack of riders at all different levels, I suspect the words of English writer Samuel Johnson, spoken in a different context, would resonate with some observers: “it is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”  

            You can hear Tom discussing the ride, in our newest podcast episode recorded after last year’s ride, along with chef Travis Flood, chef Jess Cerra ,and Arby’s Foundation president Stuart Brown  or on iTunes at 

            If you are feeling inspired, there is plenty of time to train for our Charlottesville ride in September. Check it out at and please consider joining. For all of the talk of training and hills and pain, etc. it is mostly just incredibly fun.

Monday, April 23, 2018

SNAP Debate As A Harbinger of Whether Our Nation Can Come Back Together

With Food Stamp Bill the GOP Once Again Promotes Work Requirements That Don’t Work. “Just as good health is a prerequisite to useful employment, so is good nutrition. Making unemployment an obstacle to getting a decent meal turns this obvious truism on its head. But the advocates of the SNAP cutbacks plainly don't care. It's proper to remember that these are the same lawmakers who passed a $1.5-trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.”   Michael Hiltzik,  Pulitizer Prize winning journalist at the L.A. Times

A battle looms over proposals to cut the SNAP nutritional assistance program by more than $17 billion over ten years.  The proposed cuts are camouflaged in the form of work requirements. It is a necessary battle, but the wrong one. In addition to opposing such cuts, we should be insisting that our growing economy positions us to increase assistance to end hunger and conquer poverty. The modest benefits most SNAP recipients receive are too little to even last the full month.

The work requirement issue is a kind of sleight-of-hand on the part of those looking for politically useful wedge issues that divide rather than unite. The vast majority of food stamp recipients are children, elderly, disabled, or already working. So work requirements are not even relevant, except for a select few. However, they are an example of political misdirection, putting anti-hunger advocates on the defensive instead of championing the even more ambitious efforts needed.   

The debate over SNAP and work requirements is important in and of itself. But instead of focusing on the small fraction of SNAP recipients who may be getting what some consider to be more than they deserve, our focus should instead be on the vast majority of SNAP recipients who are not getting as much as they need to lead healthy and productive lives.   

Most of all, the SNAP debate is harbinger of whether our nation can come back together on behalf of values that have been so battered and stained - like treating people with dignity and respect.  SNAP is about more than feeding hungry Americans. It is about rebuilding community and national unity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Only You Can Get Me Up Those Hills

You can’t ride Chefs Cycle’s 300 miles and 15,000 feet of hills without training, and you can’t train only on the stationary bike in your living room while binge watching Netflix.  This year’s weather has not cooperated, but at some point I had to get out on the road. With less than 6 weeks left before the ride – that point was last weekend. Unfortunately, we were in Maine where it was not warm enough to melt all of the snow plowed to the side of the road and where the wind was strong enough to blow me back to the New Hampshire border.

I gambled that after a few miles my circulation would bring feeling back to my frozen arms and legs. Maybe by the time you’ve read this it will. At the 35 mile mark I reminded myself that mental training is as important as physical. I headed indoors for some quiet contemplation over a hot chocolate. 


Completing three Chefs Cycle rides over the past three years should be a confidence builder - but that’s offset by PTSD’s grip on me since climbing the last hill of last May’s ride.  But two things will keep me going these next few weeks. One is your support. It is not only deeply appreciated but also motivating and inspiring.  The other is all of the kids who will get school breakfast and other nutritional assistance thanks to the more than $3 million we’ll raise between this year’s two rides. (Chefs Cycle has become so popular that we’ve added an east coast ride in September.)

A contribution at any level will be a big help. Go to:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

An Overlooked Law of Politics: Some Things are Just Not Possible, Until They Are

            Count the Omnibus budget and spending bill Congress passed at the end of March  among the many surprises to come out of Washington these days.  Filled with domestic spending increases not thought possible until they emerged as a counterweight to the boost in defense spending the Administration wanted, the Atlantic called it A Domestic Budget to Make Barak Obama Proud. These included increases of $610 million in funding for Head Start, billions more for child care, and a rejection of efforts to eliminate funding for legal services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other programs

 These impressive victories on behalf of the most vulnerable and voiceless are a great example of an often overlooked law of politics: some things are just not possible until they happen.  Failure of imagination is always the greatest risk.
  Anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates must do more than defend existing programs and advocate incremental fixes. Rather we must make the case for transformational change – ending hunger, eradicating poverty -  even if it comes with a significant price tag. That the road to such change is long and filled with potholes argues for starting down it sooner rather than later.

We learned that at Share Our Strength when creating the No Kid Hungry campaign. Putting a stake in the ground around ending childhood hunger, as ambitious as it seemed at the time, yielded unprecedented financial and organizational support, which in turn enabled historic results.  We’re not across the finish line yet, but participation in school breakfast meals is at an all-time high, and childhood hunger at a record low. 
Successes at the state level point to federal opportunities.  As just one example, look at the role Maryland Meals for Achievement played increasing participation in school breakfast programs.  A national American Meals For Achievement program could provide funds to states to pay for costs and incentives not covered by school meal reimbursements. It could leverage local innovation and public-private partnerships to make school breakfast accessible to every child who needs it, and help No Kid Hungry across the finish line.
Big challenges require big solutions, which in turn require vision, courage, and imagination.. It may not seem practical in our current political climate – but the Omnibus spending bill signed into law reminds us that “politically practical” is overrated. America’s fundamental goodness has not evaporated over the course of a few short years.  Nor has America’s generosity. That they remain untapped is a failure of its leaders, not its people. If the people persist, the leaders will follow.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Leadership Lessons on Add Passion and Stir

        "We live in a noble profession in the restaurant and food business.  Our job is to take care of other people every single day. That starts with taking care of our team first. " - Randy Garutti, CEO Shake Shack
       "If you are lucky enough to love what you do for a living that is the greatest gift you can have". – Katie Workman, author of Dinner Solved, and The Mom 100 Cookbook

         In addition to Shake Shack being a phenomenal partner of ours, their CEO Randy Garutti is insightful on issues of leadership, community building, hospitality, and organizational culture.  As a close colleague of Danny Meyer, it is not surprising that Randy shares so much of Danny’s philosophy, but he is also an innovative and compelling leader is his own right. Along with Katie Workman, author of Dinner Solved and the Mom 100 Cookbook, and a longtime champion for Share Our Strength this is a great conversation right at the sweet spot of what we try to do everyday.



Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Riddle of Chefs Cycle's Remarkable Growth

Why Are There More Rather than Fewer Chefs Cycle Riders This Year? 
            Given the physical and mental challenges, training, expense, and pain involved in a 300 mile, 3 day bike ride you would think that each year would see fewer and fewer riders. But it turns out that just the opposite is the case. In this, Chefs Cycle’s 4th year, demand has grown so great that we’ve actually added a second, east coast ride (Charlottesville, VA) in the fall to supplement the spring ride in California (Santa Rosa)

There are at least three reasons for Chefs Cycle’s remarkable growth:

First, in a world where social activism sometimes equates to a mere digital click, there are activists who want to be challenged to do something not easy but hard.

Second, Chefs Cycle equals impact in ending childhood hunger.  The millions of dollars we’ve raised have helped add hundreds of thousands of kids to school breakfast programs, and made the entire school day more productive.

Third, it may be hard work, but it is actually a ton of fun, and affirming that we are all capable of more than we think we are.

Those of us who ride get a lot of credit, especially for defying expectations by merely surviving the grueling ride and steep hills. But our work would be all for naught without the generosity of the thousands of donors who support it every year. I hope you’ll be one of them in 2018.   Info about the rides can be found at   and you can support my ride at  Thanks so much.