Friday, December 30, 2011

NY Times editorial on hunger tells half the story

The New York Times recent editorial @  makes the important point that increases in the school lunch program to a record 21 million children is an important barometer of the need created by our nation’s economic challenges. And it makes the case for so many of our children receiving this help.

But the editorial fails to discuss the most relevant issue in the fight to end childhood hunger which is that all 21 million of the children who get a free or reduced price free lunch also are entitled to school breakfast but only 9 million get it,. And when the schools are closed in the summer time, only three million get summer meals. Amazingly, because these are entitlement programs with bipartisan support, the funds are available for all 21 million.

The most efficient and effective way of addressing childhood hunger in the U.S. is to close this gap between those eligible and those actually participating. That is the core of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry strategy. Read more @

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Impressive Corporate Leadership in the Fight to End Childhood Hunger in the U.S.

With a remarkable growth rate of more than 30%, to a budget greater than $32 million, there is no one factor that can be singled out as responsible for Share Our Strength’s growth this past year. But our corporate partners have played an especially important role in the fight against childhood hunger.

I don’t want the year to end without giving special thanks to this extraordinary group that includes but is not limited to Walmart, ConAgra Foods Foundation, Food Network, Hickory Farms, Arby’s, Sodexo Jimmy Dean, Ocean Spray, Hillshire Farm, Brown Forman, American Express, Weight Watchers, Whole Foods, Open Table, Sysco, Tyson, Williams-Sonoma, Tastefully Simple, Birds Eye, C&S Whole Grocers, Capital Grille, CGI, Corner Bakery, Ignite Restaurant Group (Joe’s Crab Shack), Ecolab, Family Circle, and the many more you will find on our website at

Many of these businesses are not only generous philanthropically, but play a critical role in creating the jobs America needs to get its economy moving again. And they have not only supported us, but shared their strengths through community service, mentoring, and sharpening our strategy. We look forward to an even more productive 2012 and to our ultimate shared success in ending childhood hunger in America.

The strategic imperative of broadening the base

Recently in Boston I heard Senate U.S. candidate Boston Elizabeth Warren speak and field questions from a crowd of potential supporters. One of the first questions she was asked was how she would be able translate her ideas into concrete policy accomplishments in the hyper-partisan environment of Washington. She used the story of creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as her textbook example of how to get things done and there were some great lessons for our No Kid Hungry campaign.

Warren told how lobbyists for all of the financial and banking interest lined up against the legislation to create the CFPB and how they temporarily prevailed in the Senate to kill a vote on the bill.

“Then we started broadening the base of our support by building a coalition. The SEIU became a huge champion. And we went to the AFL-CIO and they said this is not exactly our top priority but we’ll get involved. And we went to the Consumers Union, which in the past has focused on toasters and other products, and they said we can see why our members might be interested in this. And we went to the AARP which saw that a lot of their members were being taken advantage of by banks and credit card companies. And we eventually built such a large coalition that they had to give us a vote, and once we got the vote, Senators were afraid to vote against us. So it was about organizing that broader coalition.”

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign doesn’t have special interests lined up against it, but we do face a lot of indifference which is just as bad if not worse. And to overcome it we will likely need the kind of broader coalition that is successful in the kind of legislative campaign that Warren described. This is the strategic imperative to broaden the base that is faced by virtually every movement and important cause.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Noel Cunningham's funeral: extraordinary tribute to private citizen with public following

 Noel Cunningham's funeral was yesterday. It was an extraordinary tribute to a private citizen who had developed such a devoted public following. St John’s Cathedral had an enormous standing room only crowd, that included Noel’s brother, sister and twin daughters, the mayor, Governor Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator Michael Bennett, former Senator Gary Hart, a number of Ethiopians, and close to a thousand Coloradans, virtually every one of whom Noel had roped into one good cause or another. Generations of Taste of the Nation organizers and Cooking Matters volunteers found themselves together under one roof for the first time.

Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter gave the eulogy, which like all of the newspaper articles over the past week was filled with references to Share Our Strength, Noel’s anti-hunger work from Denver to Ethiopia, and Noel’s endearingly unique combination of relentless persistence and utter selflessness.

In the days just before the funeral Noel’s family revealed that Noel had taken his own life. This stunned the community to a degree I can’t begin to describe but I’m sure you can imagine. Toward the end of his remarks Governor Ritter addressed this directly and tenderly, giving comfort to many in convincingly arguing that Noel could not have intended to hurt anyone but that some unknown and unknowable desperation made it impossible for him to hear or see the many friends who would have sought to help him.

After the service everyone in the church was invited back to Noel's restaurant Strings for a reception that included Noel’s favorite dishes. And it seemed like everyone showed up. Bagpipes played Amazing Grace while we ate and thought about what the minister had said at one point in the service: that while Noel was truly irreplaceable, his deeds were not, and those deeds remain to be embraced and carried out by each and every one of us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

remembering Noel Cunningham: "a virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones"

In the earliest days of Share Our Strength, one of the great forces in our growth, perhaps the greatest, was Noel Cunningham, a Denver chef and restaurateur who died suddenly yesterday at 62. He was instrumental in the creation of Taste of the Nation, served on our national board of directors for many years, traveled to Ethiopia with us, and pushed us hard to be the best we could be.

More than 10 years ago I devoted part of a chapter to Noel in The Cathedral Within, explaining that his power came from his vision and his commitment to remain true to it no matter how na├»ve it might seem or how uncomfortable it may make others. He was the first truly “unreasonable man” in the best sense of the word, that I’d ever met, and no one else has ever come close.

In the book I wrote: “Noel’s goodness is not always practical, but it is always authentic, and this authenticity moves people further than anyone would have guessed they were capable of being moved…. It’s so real, so undeniable, that it compels others to believe that there must be at least some of that same goodness in themselves, and thereby compels them to the same actions as Noel’s. His impact on people is similar to Billy Budd’s as described by Herman Melville: “A virtue went out of him, sugaring the sour ones.”

From Denver to Addis Ababa, and everywhere in between, Noel will be deeply missed.