Tuesday, February 9, 2016

President Obama Goes Big in Budget to Fight Hunger and Poverty

Last night when I bumped into Share Our Strength board member Bob Greenstein at a Connecticut Avenue restaurant, he shared that “the President’s budget that gets released tomorrow has some great anti-poverty provisions in it.  $12 billion for summer EBT and a great homelessness initiative. It won’t go anywhere in this Congress, but it sets a marker that could be valuable in the future.” This morning President Obama sent to Capitol Hill that $4 trillion budget proposing to increase opportunity, decrease poverty, invest in infrastructure, and reduce the deficit.

It took President Obama until the last year of his last term to be this bold in his anti-hunger and anti-poverty policymaking. While the prospect of Congressional approval is remote, big new ideas are now on the table and will become part of the national conversation. Like a GPS that doesn’t guarantee you have the equipment or fuel necessary for your journey but at least shows how far you have to go, the President’s budget points us in a direction and enables us to measure our distance to the goal. It gives America something to aim for - and for America’s hungry children it gives new hope.

            That budget includes one of our top priorities – a fix for the summer meals program that currently fails to serve more than 80% of eligible low income kids. The president proposes $12 billion to provide low incomes kids with supplemental electronic benefits during the summer when school meals are not available.  It would commit $11 billion to eliminating homelessness among families with children, and $10 billion to expand the home visiting program that have given support to so many parents and families.

Bob Greenstein may have been understated about Congressional resistance. The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees, in a break from tradition, announced that they would not even invite the president’s budget director to testify before their panels.  There is little or no chance that a Republican controlled Congress will give the President the budget he asks for.  But Bob’s more detailed analysis,@ http://tinyurl.com/hdrzm9b explains why this budget proves “we can address key unmet national needs and substantially reduce deficits at the same time…. and includes a welcome focus on the most disadvantaged, offering proposals to increase opportunity and reduce poverty.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

Refugee Crisis: When Strategy and Humanitarian Impulse Go Hand In Hand

            For an organization as sharply focused as Share Our Strength is on our No Kid Hungry campaign in the U.S., one might ask if our recent grant of $100,000 to organizations dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis is “on strategy”. It certainly is. That’s because while our priority now and for the last 8 years has been our No Kid Hungry campaign, our mission is and always has been much broader than that: to address hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

            Even if that were not the case, there are times when humanitarian imperatives trump blind devotion to strategy.  Sometimes there are events so cataclysmic, unprecedented and unforeseen, that it won’t suffice for only the usual suspects to respond. Rather it will require all of us to extend ourselves beyond business as usual.  It is not “on strategy” for most of us to respond to such events as the Ethiopian famine, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and now the refugee crisis. But in each of these, Share Our Strength and many other Americans responded generously. In each case our staff and stakeholders expressed pride that we were willing to extend ourselves in such a way. 

            The New York Times on February 3 published a story called “The Migrant Crisis: No End in Sight” @ http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/04/world/europe/migrant-crisis-by-the-numbers.html   The figures are daunting:  67,000 migrants arrived in Europe in January of 2016 compared to 5,000 who made the journey in January of 2015.  The U.S. and European governments have pledged almost $5 billion and it is not enough.  Half a world away, the suffering is hard to imagine. But a few iconic photos move us nevertheless.

            One thing worse than being off strategy is being indifferent. Indifference undermines every aspect of one’s effectiveness.  It is as corrosive strategically as it is morally. In our case at Share Our Strength, there is no conflict between strategy and humanitarian impulse. Both were built into our founding. Both live on today. And both inspire and motivate our colleagues and supporters to aim even higher.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

True to our mission and roots, Share Our Strength grants $100,000 for children of Syrian refugee crisis

We recently announced that Share Our Strength will contribute to three organizations working to aid children and their families in the Syrian refugee crisis: Save the Children, the World Food Programme and Mercy Corps. These may seem like unusual grants for us, an organization working to end childhood hunger in the U.S., so I’m writing to share how they are important to our mission and history.
Since 2010, our priority has been to make sure every child in America has the healthy food they need, every day, through the No Kid Hungry campaign. It will continue to be our focus until the job is done.
Still, we’ve never forgotten our roots. Billy and I still clearly remember that day in 1984 when we felt compelled to act on behalf of people suffering from hunger and starvation oceans away in Ethiopia. We’ve stayed true our original mission through limited, strategic investments to build food security in some of the most vulnerable places in the world.
The scale of suffering of the refugees in Syria cries out for urgent and compassionate action. According to Save the Children, an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes. The need for basic resources like food, water and shelter is overwhelming and organizations are challenged to keep pace with that need. Read what the New York Times had to say about the most severely impacted regions here.
Much like that day in 1984, and during the catastrophic events we’ve seen since, like Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti, we feel a duty to support children in crisis, wherever they are. Through contributions to these three well-respected organizations working in Syria, we seek to build on lessons from our domestic work and bring some measure of relief to these families.
I found Bono’s words particularly inspiring in response to this crisis, “Where you live should not determine whether you live or whether you die.”
Thanks for your ongoing support of Share Our Strength,
Debbie Shore
Co-Founder, Share Our Strength

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The First White House Convening on Childhood Hunger

             It took climbing over a few plow-packed snow banks, and clearing a number of Secret Service checkpoints to get to the White House conference on childhood hunger at the Old Executive Office Building last week. But folks from all around the country managed to do so because it was the first such conference of its kind with the White House putting some weight behind a commitment made almost 8 years ago by candidate Obama to making ending childhood hunger a priority.

            Such a White House convening on childhood hunger is a milestone for this Administration and for our No Kid Hungry campaign.  The White House announced two ambitious efforts to significantly increase school meal participation and summer feeding.  The President’s chief-of-staff Denis McDonough came to open the event, as a way of signifying the importance that POTUS attached to it.  In his introduction of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, he mentioned the hardships that Vilsack had overcome, which is a subject Vilsack returned to at the very end of the speech.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees all of the child nutrition programs, and is now President Obama’s longest serving cabinet member offered some personal context. He explained that he’d grown up the son of a mom who struggled with alcohol and prescription drug addiction. There were times where I was taking care of her and didn’t have a childhood.  Vilsack said that one of the reasons he’d stayed in the job was “to make sure every kid in America has a childhood, knowing it’s pretty tough to have a childhood if you are hungry.”  He then recalled his initial job interview with President-elect Obama.

Rep. Jim McGovern was the one Member of Congress in attendance. He’s been relentlessly pushing for a White House Conference since before Obama became president.  But this convening, lacking the personal participation of the President, didn’t quite qualify. McGovern smiled and said: “It’s a first step”


Monday, January 4, 2016

Encouraging news to start the new year: bipartisan ship prevails with National Commission on Hunger

            The National Commission on Hunger created by Congress issued its report this morning and although five of us were appointed by the Democratic leadership of Congress, and five by the Republican leadership, we managed to be unanimous in support of nearly 20 recommendations to help end hunger in the United States.  Such bipartisanship is rare in Washington today. But we wanted to set an example of how people with very different views and political backgrounds could – with time, patience, and good will – come together on behalf of those most vulnerable and voiceless.  One of my Commission colleagues, Jeremy Everett, and I issued a statement that gives more details as to what we achieved @ https://medium.com/@billshore/joint-statement-on-the-new-national-commission-on-hunger-report-29d523292db0#.o227pqgit  And it includes a link to the report itself.  Let’s hope it’s an omen for the year ahead!


Language of leadership for the new year

             Welcome back and best wishes for the New Year. I hope you had a wonderful respite with friends and family, made even sweeter by the satisfaction of knowing that last year your support of Share Our Strength made the lives of millions of children better than they were before.

 In this time of ritual, renewal, resolutions, and all kinds of advice, it’s hard to say it better than Pope Francis did in a new year’s message that specifically called out the issue of hunger. The Pope spoke of witnessing “men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution.” He called on people to “overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing".

            I tend to follow political leaders more closely that religious leaders.  But I find myself quoting the Pope more often than others because he is one of the few world leaders who not only cares about what we care about, but also uses language we use, talking about hunger, the voiceless, indifference, and sharing. Coverage of the Pope’s remarks can be found @ http://tinyurl.com/jy4z22n

            During 2016 Share Our Strength has the opportunity to turn words into action. We have the talent, team, strategy and resources to succeed. Let’s make every moment count. Again, happy New Year, and welcome back.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Help us scale Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry and Feed Thousands More Kids

            Our campaign to end hunger has always relied on creating opportunities for people to share their strength and finding ways to make those opportunities scalable.  Last year saw the creation of Chefs Cycle and this year we are committed to scaling it. Our goal is for 200 riders to help raise more than $1 million during a June 27-29 300 mile ride along the California coast from Carmel to Santa Barbara.

            If riding 300 miles in just 3 days doesn’t sound possible for you, I can assure you that it didn’t for me either when I rode last year from Santa Barbara to San Diego.  But with just 6-8 weeks training, and the support and camaraderie of the other riders, I found it to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in years. 

By sharing your strength in this way, you will help to feed thousands of kids across the country, end up in great shape, and make many new lifelong friendships. You will have a dedicated team at Share Our Strength helping you with training, fundraising ideas, and logistical support.  Check our website @ http://www.chefscycle.org/?platform=hootsuite  and feel free to contact me directly at bshore@strength.org