Monday, May 25, 2015

The long and winding road of Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry

          Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry is on the verge of an achievement that many would not have thought possible.
          Memorial Day weekend was a key training milestone, with extended time for long rides.  One thing that struck me is just how much the challenges of this ride parallel the challenges we face ending childhood hunger. The chefs who are riding in Chefs Cycle will raise an incredible amount of money that will enable us to feed millions of kids.  But more important, they are demonstrating qualities invaluable to our No Kid Hungry campaign.

            Much of my time on the bike this weekend felt great. But some was not so great.  High winds on several stretches slowed my progress to a crawl. There were a few construction site detours. My chain needed to be oiled. I ran out of Gatorade before I finished. Toward the end of one long ride my legs were just out of gas and the left knee that I thought would bother me was nothing compared to my right quad. 

            Every path has variables and adversities whose specifics may not be predictable but that are guaranteed to surface. We see the same in our efforts to advance No Kid Hungry.  A new governor comes into office who is not as supportive as the last. A school food service director vacancy goes inexplicably unfilled for months. A funder we counted on gets fickle and directs their money somewhere else.  Everything takes longer than anticipated.

            There are dozens of reasons to say we’ve gone as far as we can go, just as there are dozens of reasons for getting off the bike. Many are valid. All of them get you to the same place: somewhere short of the goal. Perhaps the greatest challenge, whether on the bike or in our work, is the ever present doubt, second guessing, and fear of not accomplishing what you committed, publicly, to do.

That leaves one indispensable quality which is what Chefs Cycle and No Kid Hungry are all about: persistence. I always envision our No Kid Hungry team as walking on to the field just as everyone else who has tried but failed is walking off.  I think of Chefs Cycle going a distance that no one else thought could be accomplished, doing what Josh Wachs, our Chief Strategy Officer, insists upon in No Kid Hungry state campaigns: “getting all the way to done.”
           Participating chefs are not only raising money but personifying the role of persistence in teaching, inspiring and leading. That’s what gives me confidence we will succeed in achieving No Kid Hungry.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bearing Witness to Deep Poverty and Inspirational Leaders in Arkansas

Some things are worth waiting for. Like the two days this week we spent in Arkansas.  It has been a high priority state for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. The National Commission on Hunger made it the site of its first field visit and second field hearing.

On the one hand the suffering of impoverished families across the state is palpable. 29% of the children live in poverty which puts Arkansas at 49th  worst in the nation. 40 percent of seniors are classified as food insecure.  In Pine Bluff, where the child poverty rate is 37% what passes for an after school rec center is a life saver for many teens but in dire need of renovation and resources.

We witnessed families lining up at fire stations and churches acting as makeshift food distribution centers for a once-a-month bag of food that will last no more than 3 days. The devastating loss of jobs in a changing economy, hunger, crime, and closing schools, are met by programs that barely keep up, let alone conquer the challenges.  

On the other hand, children and families across the state are benefitting from our No Kid Hungry campaign in ways so tangible, visible and measurable that you couldn’t miss it if you tried. At almost every site, and from the lips of every witness at the hearing held by the National Commission on Hunger – whether advocate or state cabinet official- were words of praise for Cooking Matters, our summer meals strategy, and our school breakfast work.  It was a day for pride in the service of each and every one of us at Share Our Strength.


At Martin Luther King elementary school we saw breakfast in the classroom in operation.  The efficient choreography of carts rolling down the halls, insulated bags and boxes being dropped off, and kids eating pancakes or cereal as they settled themselves for the day was state-of-the-art. 24 of 32 schools in Little Rock now offer breakfast after the bell.  


For me the takeaway from the trip is the need to resist the temptation to accept the unacceptable. Economic constraints and political division acclimate us to the notion that giving people just enough to get by is a reasonable standard. So we enable them to survive but certainly not thrive. Our political system aims interventions to hit somewhere above desperation but far below dignity. 


Thanks to our No Kid Hungry campaign, breakfast in the classroom, dedicated teachers, parents and administrators, and great local partners like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, that won’t be the case for those kids at Martin Luther King elementary. After the pledge of allegiance, the students remained standing and recited this pledge too:


I pledge my loyalty to Dr. King’s dream by

Serving all humanity

To my school

To my teacher and by

Holding fast to my dreams

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Giving "sharing strength" a whole new meaning via Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry

            A three course dinner has always been more my speed than a three day bike ride, but we’re giving “sharing strength” a whole new meaning with our first 300 mile bike ride called Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. I’m neither a chef, nor within 20 years of the majority of the other riders, but I’m hoping that either pride or pity will lead you to support my ride which will helps us feed hundreds of thousands of American children. Join me @


            In June, I’ll be riding 300 miles over three days, from Santa Barbara to San Diego (which on the map at least looks all downhill). Your support – large or small – will help take my mind off of the following concerns:


§  The combined age of my knees is 120 years old, a fact that is physiologically not relevant but mentally devastating (you’ll know what I mean someday)


§  Proper cycling shorts are not a luxury but a necessity unless you plan to stand at dinner while the rest of your friends and family sit and eat.


§  Instead of my conditioning peaking on the week of May 25, 2015 per the Endorphin Fitness training manual we are using, it will have peaked sometime during May of 1995.


Thanks for helping Share Our Strength create yet another vehicle for generating the resources necessary for ending childhood hunger in America. With 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, the needs of our nation’s children are greater than ever – and having a great impact on our schools, our health care system, and ultimately our economic competitiveness. 


One of our challenges here is to design new opportunities through which people can share their strength. I know that if we succeed we’ll inspire even more people than ever to get involved. So my pitch is “If I can do it, anyone can!” 


Again, a link to my donation page can be found @, and a link to some of your favorite chefs is @ Thanks for considering getting behind our effort.