By Cecily Walters 2014-03-27 09:38:34
This Month’s Guest Billy Shore Meet Billy Shore, the founder and chief executive officer of Share Our Strength (SOS), a national nonprofit that works to end childhood hunger in America. Shore will present a General Session speech at SNA’s Annual National Conference in Boston this July. Read more of his thoughts at www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. Your official bio states that you were moved by the 1984 Ethiopian famine to get involved in hunger relief. But why start a brand-new organization? We felt like the efforts that existed for helping to end childhood hunger were preaching to the choir—and we wanted to grow that choir instead of competing for existing resources. We thought that foodservice professionals and the restaurant industry would want to support us. To do that, we had to create new vehicles for people to literally share their strength. How has SOS evolved over the years? We have shifted from being [primarily] a grant maker to other organizations to serving in a leadership role where we are getting other organizations involved in the hunger space. There are hungry kids in the United States because of a lack of political will to solve the problem, not because of war or famine. I wanted to work to solve the problem, not ameliorate it, and that led to creating Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign (www.nokidhungry.org), which has become a national movement. School nutrition operators work in a profession dedicated to feeding hungry kids. What else can they do? Become an advocate for solutions that are affordable and have bipartisan support, such as school breakfast. Promote resources that are useful, such as Share Our Strength’s new calculator, a free, interactive tool that helps school nutrition operators understand the financial impact of expanding breakfast, summer and/or afterschool meal programs. School nutrition professionals have a special privilege in that they share what they are seeing in their schools every day regarding kids and hunger. Their contributions toward ending childhood hunger are extraordinarily valuable. Is there one story of hunger that really sticks with you? I am inspired by many stories and experiences, but recently, I visited 52nd Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. The district’s superintendent mandated breakfast in the classroom for the 850 kids there. Before, the school had a perfect attendance rate of just 250 students, but after universal breakfast was launched, that rate went up to 439. This school also saw an increase in kids reading at their grade level and a decrease in nurse visits. Breakfast in the classroom had a huge impact! You’ve built some great relationships with celebrity spokespeople like Jeff Bridges (above). Do certain celebrities carry more clout than others in making an impact? Everyone has a role to play in helping to end childhood hunger. The reach of an athlete, celebrity or entertainer is powerful, but school nutrition operators, teachers and principals have equal standing in being able to talk about what’s going on in schools. Ending hunger is one of the few issues with universal appeal, because we can’t have a strong America with weak kids. Who are among your own personal heroes? I have seen so many people willing to give of themselves and be generous. Maria Gomez, a nurse who recently completed an SOS Board member term, would anchor our conversations through the lens of someone seeing what kids and families are actually going through. I tend to admire people who are close to the ground and cutting through the rhetoric and politics, people who are willing to talk about how hunger affects a child, so I also admire two Board members, a couple currently in Ethiopia who have traveled on their own dime to spread the message about ending hunger. Hoping that it’s long, long into the future, how do you want the first lines of your obituary to read? I just turned 59, so ask me in another 59 years! I don’t think about the difference I can make or that I have made. We can only solve hunger if more people are involved, so I would want to know that I have played some role in helping others see that they have a strength to share.
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