More Reflections From Billy Shore
School Nutrition was pleased to speak with Billy Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, for its April 2014 issue. Space restrictions prevented us from running the complete interview. Read on for more of his thoughts on hunger and the role school nutrition professionals can play in its eradication.
In what ways do you think SOS has had the most impact over the years?
The No Kid Hungry campaign in particular has had a real impact. [Editors’ Note: Now available from No Kid Hungry is a new school calculator resource, a free, interactive tool that helps school nutrition operators understand the financial impact of expanding breakfast, summer and/or afterschool meal programs.] SNA members have really come into play with our work in schools on our school breakfast campaign. School breakfast has been around, but it has been an under-utilized opportunity. When we started our school breakfast efforts, about 21 million kids received a free or reduced school lunch, while about 9 million kids received a free or reduced school breakfast. Now about 11 million kids receive a free or reduced school breakfast. We estimate that about 70% of kids who receive a free or reduced lunch also need a free or reduced school breakfast.
We can measure the impact when we see the connection between school breakfast and improved test scores and attendance, and we also can measure the impact that SOS has had by the number of people who have become engaged with our organization who were previously not thinking about ending hunger and now see the connection with school breakfast.
Hunger is still very much with us both here and abroad. Why do you think this is the case? In your opinion, what’s it going to take to eradicate hunger for good in this country? Around the world?
It’s definitely possible to eradicate hunger in the United States, but it’s harder in other countries. About 47 million people in this country are living below poverty, including 22% of all U.S. kids. That’s why we have hunger in America. Since the Great Recession, people have continued to need food assistance. As the economy gets stronger and we continue to inform people that these are problems that affect all of us, we can see progress in the eradication of hunger.
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) believes that hunger in the United States is “a political condition with a political solution” and that we have the necessary programs in place to end hunger but that we lack the political will to fully fund them and to end hunger once and for all. This is true. I think that ultimately we will gain the political will to connect kids with meals.
As far as hunger around the world is concerned, it is often complicated by famine, drought, war and refugee situations. We can look to indigenous organizations to identify people from those countries who need aid and give them the resources they need to succeed. Eradicating global hunger will take longer than eradicating hunger in our country. However, there have been successful efforts to eradicate polio thanks to massive global efforts, and I think hunger could go the same way.
You’re very active on Twitter. (Follow Shore @billshore.) What advice do you have for using social media to engage people on school nutrition and related issues?
Smart small. Once you’re on social media, you’ll find that things of interest to you are of interest to others. SNA members can share the stories from the inside that they see every day, which will touch people.
You’ll be speaking to SNA members at our annual conference in Boston this July. Do you have a message you’d like to share with members before then?
Thank you for caring and for your lifelong dedication to kids; you are making a decisive difference in their lives.