Monday, January 22, 2018

The Moral Imperative of Re-Prioritizing Justice in the Age of Trump

   Ford Foundation President Darren Walker is widely considered one of the more thoughtful voices at the intersection of philanthropy and social justice. I’m sharing his new letter as an example of how great institutions demonstrate the agility to adapt and evolve to meet changing national needs and to remain relevant to the national conversation.  Walker strikes a balance in describing how most of what they are doing at the Ford Foundation will not change, but how they will also consolidate some of their efforts in the interest of reconsidering their priorities and taking on some new things.

  I found it to be illustrative, inspiring and instructional for us and for many colleague organizations in our sector. It’s an example of the moral imperative of re-prioritizing – and having the humility to re-examine cherished beliefs and carefully crafted strategic plans.  This is especially true when political, economic and social conditions have changed as dramatically as they have in the past year.  Success is rarely about building the plan or sticking to it so much as adapting the plan to new realities. It’s worth reading what Walker has written below, and contemplating what it might mean for our work and yours

Monday, January 15, 2018

Words, Deeds, and the "Beloved Community" on MLK Day 2018

Throughout this MLK holiday weekend most of the commentary on the racist vulgarity of America’s president has revealed three categories of response:  (1) those on social media who find clever and often equally vulgar ways to insult the president in return; (2) rants; and (3) genuine heartbreak and despair.

I can relate to all three, especially the third, but none fully satisfy.  I want to know not only what people say, but also what they are going to do. Make no mistake: silence is as unacceptable now as it has been on other occasions this past year. But words alone are not sufficient. 

They must be matched with concrete commitments to more effectively serve, represent, and be the voice of those who are the targets of not only racism but of the escalating assault on poor people of all backgrounds.  We saw this most recently through the proposal to allow states to strip the poor of Medicaid if they are not working, notwithstanding studies showing those on Medicaid are better able to get jobs.  We will see it again in battles over SNAP and other forms of assistance to low income Americans

            At Share Our Strength and Community Wealth Partners, we are among the few in the privileged position to not only speak but also act.  Our plan has always been to organize, mobilize, advocate, reform, build, strengthen, motivate, and enlist and enroll those in need in programs that work. And to help those who serve them to do so more effectively. That doesn’t change. But the urgency to strengthen every partnership, whether with donor or local organization or client, increases with the knowledge that we will not only be ending hunger, but standing up for Dr. King’s vision of “the beloved community” that changes not only our laws but our souls.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Progress No One Thought Possible Until It Happened

             The podcast episode we released today will convince you that there is not a school in the country that can’t be cooking healthy, nutritious, fresh and locally sourced food right in its own school kitchen.  That’s what Laura Benavidez and Jill Shah set out to prove in a pilot program that is delighting low income kids who now enjoy school meals.

Laura is the executive director of food service for Boston Public School and previously worked with us on breakfast after the bell in the L.A. Unified School District where she served for 10 years. Jill created the Shah Family Foundation with her husband after he co-founded and took public Wayfair, the home furnishing on-line retailer.  Share Our Strength Boston chefs Andy Husbands and Ken Oringer shared their strength by helping to design and supply the school kitchens.  Their story is a great example of everyone having the capacity to share their strength and make a difference on behalf of kids.
            You can listen at on iTunes at or  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

At 12 Below Zero, A New Year's Day Like No Other

           We awoke this New Year’s Day at Goose Rocks Beach in Maine to a temperature of -12 degrees (before calculating wind chill). I choose to take it as an omen that metrics once thought unimaginable are ultimately attainable. 


From my window facing the ocean I see something I’ve never seen before.  The clouds are not in the clear blue sky but instead sitting on top of the water. The extreme temperature differential between Maine’s always cold ocean and the -12 degree air has created a steaming layer of clouds where air and water meet.   In front of the clouds, in the water close to shore swim five fat black ducks, as leisurely as if in the Bahamas. I envy their serenity in the face of extreme conditions and consider adding the aspiration to my new year’s resolutions. But serenity rarely accelerates change.

            2018 promises challenging conditions for our work. Pundits speculate whether the political earthquake of 2016 will be sustained or turn out instead to have been an aberration that gets reversed and ends one party control of Congress and White House. For all of the prognosticating no one can be certain. Every prediction is sewn tightly to the caveat “of course, there’s never really been a time like this so who knows.”

            What does it all mean for Share Our Strength and the children we serve? At least two things: First, preoccupation with a divisive midterm election campaign makes it unlikely our political leaders will get much done. Progress addressing basic human needs will depend on organizations like ours working with partners on the ground to protect existing services and better connect those most vulnerable to them.  State governments will continue to be critical to our strategy.

Second, in 2017 we staked a new claim that went beyond increasing percentages of kids participating in school meals. For the first time we asserted childhood hunger has been significantly reduced, with one-third fewer children experiencing hunger today.  (See our excellent year-end thank-you video )

It’s a bold claim but not a surprising one.  When you combine 3 million more kids getting school breakfast, with unemployment down to 4.1 percent, and USDA data showing record low levels of the “very low food security” that represents missed meals, we know that many kids, while still poor, and possibly even food insecure, at least are not hungry. 

Still, this bold claim represents a significant departure for us. In addition to emphasizing the harmful consequences of kids not getting the nutrition they need, we are also helping our stakeholders better assess where we are in relationship to the finish line.  There is still a long way to go, but not nearly as long as before. The closer we get the more relentless we will strive to reach it, while also planning more comprehensively for what comes next once we do. In this way 2018 finds Share Our Strength on a new trajectory. Welcome back. Happy New Year. Stay warm. But not too serene.