Today we're talking to Billy Shore, who started Share Our Strength in 1984 to combat hunger in America. The organization has since raised $300 million to fight childhood hunger in America and abroad.
Huffington Post: What did you do before Share Our Strength?
Billy Shore: After graduating college I came to Washington to work for Senator Gary Hart, interned at first and then progressed through the office until becoming his Legislative Director in the Senate and the political director for his presidential campaigns. After he left politics I became chief of staff to Senator Bob Kerrey from Nebraska.
HP: When, how and why did you start Share Our Strength?
In 1984, while still working for Senator Hart, the devastation of famine in Ethiopia prompted me to start Share Our Strength. We began with a $2000 cash advance on a credit card and since then have raised and spent $300 million to fight hunger, mostly in the United States, where we are now focused on ending childhood hunger.
HP: What are the big ideas/goals behind Share Our Strength? How do you execute them?
BS: Share Our Strength funds food banks, clinics dealing with malnutrition, advocacy efforts to change policy, and we have added tens of thousands of children to programs like school breakfast, summer meals and SNAP (formerly food stamps).
Though we may face many challenges that are not easy to solve, such as unemployment, health care, climate change, etc, there is an important issue that is solvable and it is particularly dependent on you: ending childhood hunger in the United States.
One in four children in the U.S. are now on food stamps, for the first time in our history. A survey that Share Our Strength commissioned from Celinda Lake shows that 62% of public school teachers identify hunger as a problem in the classroom and are using their own money on a regular basis to buy food for those kids.
But kids in the U.S. aren't hungry because we lack food, we know that is not the case, and they are not hungry because of a lack of food and nutrition programs. That is not the case either. They are hungry because they lack access to those programs. And every time we increase access- to school breakfast, to summer feeding, to SNAP / food stamps, we increase the flow of already authorized and appropriated federal dollars into your state. Even increasing school breakfast participation from the 45% rate it is at today to 60% would bring $561 million into the states. More than a billion dollars are at stake when you consider all of the food and nutrition programs for which kids are eligible but not enrolled.
HP: What kind of tangible results have you achieved? How has the organization grown over time?
BS: Since our inception in 1984, we have raised $300 million and supported more than 1,000 groups around the world working to end hunger. We are especially proud of the progress we've made in the last several years - we've launched seven locality-based partnerships to end childhood hunger in Washington, Florida, DC, Maryland, Colorado, Arkansas and most recently New Orleans; and our cooking-based nutrition education program, Cooking Matters (formerly called Operation Frontline), has more than tripled its impact in low-income communities across the country.
HP: Who inspires you?
BS: I'm inspired by the thousands of Share Our Strength volunteers across the U.S. - chefs, teachers, corporate partners, students, and others - who have recognized that they have a strength to share and can make a difference.
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