Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lesson from Chefs Cycle: Capable of More than We Think We Are

One of the most important things I’ve learned over 30 years at Share Our Strength came during last year’s 3 day, 300 mile Chefs Cycle bike ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego: we are all capable of more than we think we are. That’s how and why we completed the arduous ride, and that’s how and why we will achieve No Kid Hungry.

            Eventually age and common sense will prevail on me to not attempt riding 300 miles with much younger and fitter cyclists. But for now I still have a few rides left in me and along with nearly 150 other riders will spend the next ten weeks training to ensure we keep our commitment.

I hope you will support this year’s ride from Carmel to Santa Barbara. We will raise more than $1 million for our No Kid Hungry campaign, enough to add hundreds of thousands of America’s most vulnerable children to school breakfast and summer meals programs. My ride page can be found @ donate here. And if you want to see or support other riders, go to @  Thanks for considering, and for any contribution you can make.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"No Great Cause is Ever Lost or Ever Won. The Battle Must Be Renewed and The Creed Restated" 28 Years of Taste of the Nation

Last night was Share Our Strength’s annual Taste of the Nation event at the National Building Museum.  It was the 28th year we’ve held the event and it included chef Roberto Donna who was at our first event and Bryan Voltaggio who has been deeply engaged with us for the past 5 years, as well as dozens of other talented chefs and restaurateurs. 


I’ve attended all but two or three of the past 28 years, not to mention events in nearly one hundred other cities.  While they have grown and changed in numerous ways, the fundamental principal remains the same: those who make a living from feeding people have a special connection to the issue of hunger and want to literally share their strength to make a difference in the community where they work and live.

Over three decades the commitment of the culinary community to ending hunger has been nothing short of extraordinary, probably exceeding the unity, generosity and commitment of any other industry when it comes to addressing a social problem.  The return on that investment has been equally impressive: millions of children added to the school breakfast program, thousands more summer meals sites around the nation, and building the capacity of a highly sophisticated emergency food assistance network of food banks.


Many of us remarked last night on the passage of time. Restaurants that had opened and closed.  Friends who’d moved away or died.  Some of our children now had children of their own.  It’s what you would expect over nearly three decades.  

But what has remained, and what time won’t diminish or extinguish, is the conviction that we each have a role to play in making the world a little better for the next generation, and that the passage of time make that conviction more true not less. As the writer John Buchan put it: “No great cause is ever lost or ever won. The battle must always be renewed and the creed restated … some things are universal, catholic and undying. These do no age or pass out of fashion, for they symbolize eternal things. They are the guardians of the freedom of the human spirit, the proof of what our mortal frailty can achieve.”

Monday, April 4, 2016

Intersection of Poverty and Place Matters, and Creates New Challenges

A new report from the Brookings Institution gives policy makers and nonprofit leaders working for social change reason to rethink strategy in favor of more comprehensive approaches. The report shows that although the Great recession ended in 2009, the number of people below the poverty line remains stuck at pre-recession record levels.  

Also, the concentration of poverty has increased with millions more American living in even more challenging circumstances than before. According to the report: “By 2010-14, 14 million people lived in extremely poor neighborhoods—5.2 million more than before the downturn and more than twice as many as in 2000….More than half of all poor residents in the United States now live in high poverty or extremely poor neighborhoods.”

If you care about education, health care, pre-K, hunger, nutrition, crime, or a number of other issues, this new level of concentrated poverty impacts your efforts and makes your work even harder.  If you are working on any of those issues and not working on the underlying issue of poverty that often shapes them, you may be failing to reach far enough upstream. 

Living in neighborhoods of concentrated povertry imposes additional challenges for families seeking to pull themselves into better circumstances. Concentrated poverty has negative impacts on crime, drop-out rates and the duration of poverty. Such communities often have less access to social services, after school enrichment programs, mentors and safe spaces.

This is a demographic shift to which we have not yet adjusted.  The report argues that “Not only has public perception lagged behind the changing landscape of poverty, the traditional policy and practice playbook that has evolved over decades to address poverty in place has also failed to keep up with the larger scale and more diverse geography of need that exists today.”

This raises at least three major questions for policymakers, nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs and advocates:

-          Must some part of our work be focused not just on the symptoms of poverty but on its root causes?


-          Should our efforts be more targeted and concentrated to match the concentration of poverty?


-          Are their deeper collaborations and coordination with other organizations and leaders necessary as a result of this new data?

As the Brookings authors assert, “The intersection between poverty and place matters.”