Last Friday in NY, we rang the opening bell for trading on NASDAQ, as colorful, confetti-filled images were projected 10-20 stories high on Times Square video screens.
We participated in this great morning thanks to Ray Blanchette and Jim Mazany of Joe’s Crab Shack and The Ignite Restaurant Group (listed on NASDAQ.) Instead of basking in their moment in the sun, they shared their strength by having the No Kid Hungry campaign and Dine Out take center stage. That generosity of spirit is characteristic of the leadership behind Dine Out’s growth.
It may seem unusual for a nonprofit to be the focus at NASDAQ. But perhaps not in our case. NASDAQ is for entrepreneurs investing in the future. Their goals are to create wealth and enhance innovation and economic competitiveness. That’s what Share Our Strength is about as well. We create “community wealth” to invest in the children representing our nation’s future. We can’t have a strong nation or strong economy without strong kids.
Earlier last week, USDA released new data showing food insecurity essentially unchanged from the 14.5 percent of Americans considered food insecure the year before, and still much worse than the 11.1 percent rate before the Great Recession. Hungry Americans never recovered even though the stock market did. In 2009, NASDAQ fell to 1958 points and the Dow to 9344. By 2014, NASDAQ had doubled to 4562 and the Dow nearly so to 17,069.
NASDAQ has nothing to feel bad about. It did what it’s supposed to do. Such growth directly benefits some and indirectly benefits many. On the other hand, our political leadership should feel sick-to-its-stomach awful. If you can’t come together to feed our hungriest kids while massive amounts of wealth is being created, when would you?
The rebounding stock market shows that America knows how to create wealth. But the lack of progress in addressing hunger and food insecurity shows we are not as good at creating opportunity for all.
Hopefully other companies will be inspired by the commitment to community of Ignite and our many corporate partners like the Food Network, Williams-Sonoma, Corner Bakery and Arby’s just to name a few. (A more comprehensive list of Dine Out participants can be found at NoKidHungry.org.) This can help create the necessary political will to end hunger. Economic success gave us a lot to smile and cheer about at NASDAQ last week. We’ll have even more to celebrate when our collective efforts lead to economic justice.