Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mounting Evidence That Progress Is Possible - Especially Locally!

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman argues that American politics still works from the bottom up, “where civic coalitions are succeeding at revitalizing old towns where governmental efforts have failed:  He point is borne out in the latest Annie E Casey Foundation’s report on infant mortality in Baltimore.

A “collective impact” approach known as B’More for Healthy Babies (BHB) that blends public investment with private philanthropic commitments has resulted in a decrease in infant mortality by 35% since 2009 and a decrease in the disparity between African Americans and whites by 64%

We’ve seen the same at Share Our Strength with our No Kid Hungry campaign that operates on a state-by-states basis. 3 million kids have been added to school breakfast over the past 10 years. The number of children experiencing hunger is down at least 30%.

The animosity and divisiveness that characterizes our national politics often subsides at the community level where citizens have a clear line of sight into the needs of their neighbors and solutions that work. Especially on behalf of children. Pragmatism, collaboration, and innovation prevail – and show what might be possible if we put the larger interest over individual special interests.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Both Bad and Better

            New data about children from the Annie E. Casey Foundation aligns perfectly with what Bill Gates describes as “one of the best books I’ve ever read.”  He is referring to Factfulness by Hans Robling which makes the case that we (especially journalists and advocates) almost always over-estimate and dramatize how bad things are in the world and under-estimate how much progress has been made.  The central point is that social conditions can be both bad and better. Grounding oneself in fact (not necessarily data, but fact) is essential.  to creating effective and lasting change.

            Here are the key findings from the Annie E Casey Foundation’s 2018 Kids Count Data Book published last week:

n  The nation’s child poverty rate dropped from a peak of 23% in 2011 to 19% in 2016 resulting in nearly 2.3 million fewer children living in poverty

n  The teen birth rate fell to an all-time low

n  The rate of high school students graduating on time climbed to an all-time high

n  Despite these shifts in the right direction, deep racial and ethnic inequities persist. For nearly all of the measures tracked by Kids Count, African-American, American Indian, Latino, and Southeast Asian children continue to fare worse than their peers.

We have been seeing the same dynamic when it comes to childhood hunger. Thanks to our No Kid Hungry campaign and other efforts, and a growing economy, progress has been unprecedented – reducing the number of hungry kids in the U.S. by more than 30%.  But even one hungry child is unacceptable. So, just as Rosling and Gates suggest, things are bad but better. We need to assert both.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A First For Share Our Strength: Bride and Groom At Our Boston Taste Event

I've been to a lot of Taste of the Nation events for Share Our Strength and Our No Kid Hungry campaign- but this was the first time I've seen a bride and groom and their entire wedding party among our guests.  The bride is a first grade teacher in Boston Public Schools and many of her students live below the poverty line and come to school hungry, which affected her deeply. She’s been to a number of Boston Taste of the Nation events in the past and told her fiancĂ© that the most meaningful thing she could imagine would be having her wedding reception as part of Taste. They brought 125 guests!  Hear it in her their own words from the first time we’ve recorded an episode of Add Passion and Stir live from a Taste event with a variety of chefs and other participants.  At or on iTunes at


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Milestones On The Road to Ending Childhood Hunger (per an amazing rookie Chefs Cycle Rider)

I thought you might be inspired as I was by the insights of our Colorado colleague Jenny Baragary who rode Chefs Cycle for the first time in Santa Rosa last month. In her note below Jenny really nailed what is special about both the ride and our staff, and how it connects to our No Kid Hungry campaign and the broader mission of Share Our Strength.  I’m so grateful to Jenny for riding and for sharing her experience.


From: Baragary, Jennifer
Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2018 10:33 AM
To: Shore, Billy <>; Nelson, Tom <>
Subject: Chefs Cycle Thoughts!

Hi Billy and Tom,

It’s taken me over month to process what I experienced at Chefs Cycle. When people ask me about it, I light up, a huge smile comes across my face, and I say, “It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done…but I had an awesome time!” And it’s true, the ride was really hard. There were several moments when I didn’t think I would finish and even more moments when I question why I can’t be content just running a 5K.

Now that I’ve had time to recover, I wanted to share some thoughts on what made the ride so amazing for me:

·       It’s an Equalizer: Upon arriving, it was immediately clear that I was a rookie. Chefs had bikes worth more than my car and more muscle in a single calf than I have in my entire body. Needless to say, I was nervous heading into Day 1. What if I was last to finish? What if I didn’t finish at all? At breakfast before Day 1, my roommate and I sat with members of the Hot Wheels team. They graciously answered our newbie questions and prepared us for the day ahead. I ate breakfast with this group every day (that was the only time I could keep pace with them). Each morning, we discussed the highs and lows of the previous day and what to expect on the ride ahead. There was something really inspiring knowing that even though they were significantly more seasoned, we were all experiencing the same ride.

·       It’s about Milestones: Someone told me once that running a marathon is the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do – all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, but you have to do it for 26.2 miles. All you have to do in Chefs Cycle is peddle. By the third day that was a tall order. My goal for Day 3 was to just get to the next rest stop. By the second rest stop, I started to believe I just might finish. That’s when the real connection to our work became clear to me. Ending childhood hunger won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take achieving a series of milestones. Sometimes those milestones come quick and easy like the Day 1 rest stops…sometimes just getting to the next rest stop is going to take longer than anticipated and require significantly more willpower than expected, much like the last 25 miles of Day 2 (Note: Day 2 was a killer for me).

·       Our Staff is Exceptional, Amazing & Unbelievable: I’ve always known the folks that work for Share Our Strength are special. Across the board, it’s an organization full of people who are kind, thoughtful and generous. However, the Chefs Cycle team and staff volunteers took this to another level. As I pulled into every rest stop, there was at least one fellow staff member asking how I was feeling, what I needed and how they could help. And when I pulled out to head to the next rest stop, there was someone there saying they couldn’t wait to see me back at the hotel. I know they did this for everyone. However, I know I received a little extra love. It was so incredibly motivating and heartwarming.

On a personal level, it proved to me that I’m much stronger than I ever knew!  I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to participate.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Our $100,000 grant to support kids on the border generates more funding

Our decision to grant $100,000 to support children on the border has had an incredible response from our board, staff and donors. An additional $20,000 has already come in, unsolicited. More is expected and will be allocated the same way.

I'm grateful to the Share Our Strength staff and community of stakeholders for the critical role they played. By early last week it was clear from numerous informal communications with colleagues that the plight of children at the border was weighing heavy on the heart. Such emotion grounded in genuine empathy for the most vulnerable families among us is impossible to ignore. It stands in glaring contrast to the cynical calculations of political Washington. 

Most decisions we make at Share Our Strength fit neatly into our long-term strategic plan. But the instincts and impulses of our team and supporters are an equal and sometimes even more reliable compass.  Our organization’s leadership trusts those instincts and impulses. You should too.  When you believe an emerging issue merits a response from Share Our Strength, please raise it. Consider this an invitation. Finite resources won’t allow us to respond as often as we’d like to. But the only rules that constrain us are the rules we’ve written together and can re-write. The hallmark of moral leadership is fidelity to values even above strategy and budgets. Those values don’t come from a plan or mission statement. They come from you.

The crisis for children at the border is far from over. And because the vulnerable and voiceless are so often exploited for political gain, it won’t be the only such crisis to be addressed. If you remain vigilant and outspoken, we will remain vigilant and outspoken. Thank you.



Friday, June 22, 2018

Competence Matters

      Competence matters: Given the relentless assault on integrity, decency and compassion that America has endured the past 18 months, competence seems like an almost quaint luxury. But for more than 2000 kids still separated from the parents at the border, we are seeing why competence matters. Amid constantly changing and conflicting messages, the Trump Administration is scrambling to figure out whether, where and how to reunite them with their families or house them safely and humanely.   No one is in charge. No one’s word can be taken at face value, let alone as their bond.  Governing is complex and serious. When not treated that way, people get hurt. In this case, children. Once we restore honesty and decency to our national life, it would be nice to have competence back too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Stain on Our Humanity Growing Darker Day By Day

“God squeezes but doesn’t choke you” one of the residents living on the Texas/Mexico border told us when I visited as a member of Congress’s National Commission on Hunger three summers ago.  I doubt he could be as stoic today. The tears and pleas we encountered during that trip, from families who had fled violence in search of a better life, pale in comparison to the barbaric brutality we are witnessing today as our own government, not other countries, is responsible for separating kids from their parents.  

With each passing day the stain on our humanity grows darker. So much of social justice has been a history of stalemate finally broken when confronted with the glaring contradiction to our own values.  Then justice lurches forward and we reclaim our humanity – at least part of it, at least for a time. Today America is looking in the mirror and can’t bear what it sees.

In the end it will be the children, the most vulnerable and voiceless of all, that will bring our nation back to its senses.  In our own work advancing Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, we’ve seen how children can be the foundation for bipartisanship and measureable, life-changing progress.  Hopefully we will experience that again, on immigration issues, as the current situation on the border is seen for the unconscionable and politically craven aberration that it is. Political expedience might prolong injustice but cannot sustain it. Not if each of us speak out.