Connect Blog | WhyHunger

It’s officially summer and that means a lot of different things for people. Unfortunately for the millions of children that rely on schools to get their breakfast and lunch meals, it means the time that they are the hungriest. But, we can all do something about it. Each year, WhyHunger teams up with the USDA and organizations across the country to help fill the gap during the summer. During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced priced meals provided by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, but only 18% participate in the USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP’s provides free, nutritious meals for kids at local organizations such as schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, churches, summer camps and more all over the country – all summer long. However, these locations tend to change year to year – that’s where you and WhyHunger come in!

WhyHunger’s Summer Meals Rock for Kids campaign creates awareness about the summer meals program, and activates celebrity auctions and artist ambassadors that raise funds to support the national WhyHunger Hotline and our comprehensive database that is updated regularly and now includes over 38,000 summer meal locations to connect families in need to free, healthy food closest to them when they need it most.

To find your closest Summer Food Service Program summer meals site:

  • Call the WhyHunger Hotline at 1-800-5HUNGRY (1-800-548-6479) for service in both Spanish and English. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00am EDT to 6:00pm EDT]
  • Text “summer” and your zip code to 1-800-548-6479 to get a location within minutes
  • Visit to find a site online.

And here’s how you can help:

  • Donate to support WhyHunger's Hotline and online database. 
  • Spread the word to your network and community by downloading and distributing flyers in English and Spanish at your local community centers, schools and libraries
  • Add graphics to your blog, website or social media accounts

You can find these materials and more at: Thank you for making a difference this summer!

WhyHunger’s Saulo Araujo is heading to St. Louis with the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to join workers, organizers, community members and allies from 50+ organizations across the country in a national action to demand accountability from “Bid Coal” to workers and their polluted and economically devastated communities.  Below is the announcement released by the Climate Justice Alliance/ Our Power Campaign and you can learn more and sign the petition here.

ST. LOUIS, MO, June 21, 2016 — Coal-harmed workers, families and allies from 50 groups across the country will “knock at the doors of power” in Peabody Energy’s headquarters city on Friday, June 24th. This will be the second national action in St. Louis led by residents demanding a “Just Transition Fund” instead of “business as usual” from the coal giant’s chapter 11 bankruptcy. Activists plan to confront the St Louis area people and institutions shielding Peabody as it uses its bankruptcy to escape accountability to workers and their polluted and economically devastated communities.

Missourians Organizing for Reform & Empowerment (MORE) invites people concerned for workers, families, and coal-devastated communities to gather at 12 pm in historic Shaw Park in Clayton, Missouri. MORE will lead a national Climate Justice Alliance / Our Power Campaign delegation—comprising 150+ people from 50+ organizations—through St. Louis County on Friday, June 24th. They will march through Clayton to point out the complicit institutions associated with the bankruptcy’s recent rulings, among other stops.

“This Peabody bankruptcy has national impact, but the political and legal infrastructure making it happen is right here in the St Louis area,” pointed out city resident and MORE member, Napoleon Robertson. “It’s people like Judge Barry Schermer and Attorneys Ehlers and Cousins of Armstrong Teasdale who are acting to ensure payouts go to hedge funds and Peabody executives instead of communities. They’re part of the machinery stranding workers and families harmed by Peabody’s dig-burn-dump business practices.” Community leaders have mapped out the St. Louis “infrastructure of injustice” in this interactive web site.

Jihan Gearon of Black Mesa Water Coalition and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) / Our Power Campaign added, “There’s a better solution. Let this be the first corporate bankruptcy to fund both obligations to workers and communities, and a visionary “Just Transition” away from this harmful extraction economy.”

A Peabody Energy bankruptcy settlement directed towards a “Just Transition Fund” instead of big investor and executive payouts will:

  • Fully fund promised Peabody and Patriot coal worker pensions and health care plans.
  • Put an immediate stop to the forcible relocation and harassment
  • Guarantee full funding for clean-up and full reclamation of all mined lands and polluted and depleted aquifers used by Peabody.
  • Prioritize payouts to stakeholders for communities negatively impacted by Peabody’s practices in areas left stranded in the bankruptcy – rather than big investors and executives.
  • Support communities as they transition from coal-based economies toward jobs and infrastructure based on community-owned renewable energy and local self-sufficiency.
  • Support health care funds for pollution-fouled communities in and adjacent to mining and coal-processing areas.

“We’re through with that dirty, old game,” asserts St. Louis resident Basmin Nadra from MORE, “where a big coal company uses powerful local institutions and people to prop itself up. We won’t sit quiet while the legal system protects the interests of a wealthy few over the well-being of our families. We call on everyone who thinks that’s wrong to join us in demanding a better outcome. It’s time for us to recognize we are all connected in these concerns. This is an opportunity to set new precedents.”

Michael Leon Guerrero, National Coordinator of Climate Justice Alliance agreed: “Come on by Shaw Park this June 24th and you’ll hear more than opposition to a bad bankruptcy deal. Just imagine what we could do by directing resources from a dig-burn-dump industry directly toward a new, clean energy economy.


Spokespeople available for comment, interview
This press release also available at








Organizations Represented at Action

Alliance for Appalachia
Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Black Mesa Water Coalition
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED)
Center for Story-based Strategy
Chicago Jobs with Justice
Climate Justice Alliance
Communities for a Better Environment
Cooperation Jackson
Divestment Student Network
East Michigan Environmental Action Council
Energy Justice Network
Environmental Justice League of RI
The FANG Collective
GAIA: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
Grassroots Global Justice
Grassroots International
Green For All
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Indigenous Environmental Network
Institute for Policy Studies
Ironbound Community Corporation
Haitian Platform for an Alternative Development (PADDA)
Just Transition Alliance
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Labor Network for Sustainability
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment
Native Women's Care Circle
Movement Generation
Movement Strategy Center
National Family Farm Coalition (member, US Food Sovereignty Alliance)
Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson/Right to the City Alliance
NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Right to the City
Solidarity Economy St. Louis
Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE)
Southwest Workers Union
The Ruckus Society
US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA)

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

One in five children in America lives in poverty. Summer is the time when more children are hungry than at any other time of the year because they are not receiving free school meals during the week.

That means that their families have to provide for some 150 meals during the summer just for one child. For a family with two or more children earning $15,000 or less, or even earning twice as much, the cost is a budget breaker.

Fortunately, there are government-supported solutions that, with proper support and advocacy, can help all children have a hunger-free summer.

Since 1968 the USDA Food and Nutrition Services has run the Summer Food Service Program which has grown in the past few years to serve more than two and a half million children June - August at almost 50,000 sites all across the country. WhyHunger has supported the work of the USDA for several years to identify where the programs exist and then make that information available through our WhyHunger Hotline at 1-800-548-6479. Now through our brand new texting service, there’s an easier way to find food for children in your area by texting SUMMER plus your zip code to 1-800-548-6479 or searching our database at Thousands of local organizations are doing heroic work to make sure children eat during the summer but despite all that work the program still only reaches about 15 percent of the eligible children.

A few years ago, WhyHunger came up with a different solution to summer hunger. We suggested to USDA that they add money to an eligible family’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) EBT card during the summer months. USDA has been running a pilot program over the past four years targeting families in several states whose children are eligible but are not receiving summer meals. The results of the pilot showed a reduction in childhood hunger during the summer by one third. The children were also consuming less sugary drinks and eating 12 percent more fruits and vegetables and 30 percent more grains. Many studies have shown that good nutrition aids cognition. There has always been a drop off in cognition during the summer for poor children because of hunger.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post.

For Father’s Day we profiled a couple of our favorite guys, WhyHunger’s own (and new dad) Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau and SiriusXM’s Pete Dominick, host of “Stand Up! with Pete Dominick” about how being a father has changed the way they view the world and influenced how they fight for change and against an unjust system.

Tristan Miryam 2Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau

1. How has being a (new) father influenced your perspective and work in the fight for an end to hunger and social justice for all?

My daughter is only a few weeks old, but already I am realizing that she is going to grow up in a world that is marked by systematic injustice and legacies of oppression that she had no part in creating. Her utter innocence in the face of those structures and legacies is so striking, and when coupled with the thought of the millions of other innocent children born into systemic poverty and hunger, I struggle to catch my breath. So, of course, I feel a very strong responsibility to make the world better for her, and for all the children like her.

But the corollary to this realization is an understanding that we were all born innocent into a world and into a history that we did not create. We are all struggling to do our best in this world and make it a better place, yet we often forget that we came into this world hungry and were utterly dependent on the love of other people to survive and grow. I think that many people don't really believe that we can end hunger and create social justice for all, precisely because they have forgotten that we were all once babies and survived only because of the love and selflessness of our families, friends, and communities. They don't have faith that human beings are capable of that kind of love and concern for other people, but for me, becoming a father has shown clearly that the power of our families and our communities is the strongest force in the world.

2. What recommendations do you have for engaging young people in the movement for a better food system?

Since I'm a really new father, I'm not sure how much insight I have on involving youth, but I will say that what has already struck me is that my daughter is her own person, with her own experiences, her own needs, and her own desires. As I see it, the key for me as her dad is to make sure she has the resources and the support she needs to throw herself into her passions and her plans for her life in this world. 

So, if we are talking about getting kids involved in the movement for a better food system, we need to make sure that the kids who are hurt the most by the food system - the kids who don't have access to or can't afford good food at home or at school, the kids who can't stay in their small, family farms, and the kids whose cultural food and farming traditions are being destroyed by globalization and processed food - have the support and the resources they need to change that system in ways that work for them. We need to give young people the resources to determine for themselves how they want to make their impact on the world. 

My own experience as a young person was that while older people said they wanted to hear my input, in reality they weren't interested in my perspective at all. And even though I went to a great school, my school wasn't designed for me to think critically, take leadership of my own life, and make changes in society. It was designed for me to fit into society. But change is natural to young people, because everything is new to them, so if you want to make social change, you have to start with youth. Their own experiences and their own knowledge, coupled with support and the freedom to express and organize themselves, is all they need to make a huge impact and put forward solutions and ideas that really work. The biggest challenge for adults is to actually listen and respect the perspectives and wisdom of our kids.

3. Does your family have a favorite meal to make and eat together?

We don't have a favorite family meal yet (though if breastmilk counts, it is definitely our daughter's one and only favorite food), but I will say that throughout the first few weeks of our daughter's life, friends and family have brought us home-cooked meals so that we can all spend as much time together as possible. Those meals have meant so much to us, not only because they save us time and money, but also because we know that our community is involved in our daughter's life. Sharing meals with friends is the kind of simple gesture that reflects the kind of world we want to live in, where people share their food and make sure that everyone is nourished and cared for.


petedominickPete Dominick

1. How has being a father influenced your perspective and work to fight for an end to hunger and social justice for all?

I won the lottery. I was born a white and male in the United States in America. There can be no doubt that gave me a huge head start. My daughters won a similar lottery. They were born white to 2 parents with college degrees in the US. I don’t have guilt about that but we should recognize our privilege. The guilt comes if I don’t do anything to help those who didn’t win the same game of chance. It’s the responsibility of those who win life lottery to help those who didn’t. 

We can all do something. I’ve chosen to do my best to understand the root of the problems we face in overcoming poverty and advocating as much as I can to apply the solutions we know work. 

2. What recommendations do you have for engaging young people in the movement for a better food system?

One of the best things we can do for young people is educate them on where food comes from. It doesn’t come in a box or off a shelf in the store. Programs like Harlem Grown inspire youth to live healthy and ambitious lives through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition.

3. Does your family have a favorite meal to make and eat together?

My wife is first generation Sicilian so eating well is a priority! We are mostly vegetarian so we come up with all kinds of salad ideas. We buy olive oil by the barrel.


It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning in mid-May when we piled into the back of my colleague's car and made our way out of New York City’s sprawl. Joining the team from WhyHunger was Raul Amorim, the Coordinator of the Youth Collective of the Brazilian Landless Worker's Movement (MST), who was in New York to accept the WhyHunger Harry Chapin Award on behalf of the MST. As the conversation flowed from English to Portuguese to Spanish and back we talked about the weather, our work, and how excited we were to reach our final destination. We crossed the Hudson River and navigated up the highway North-bound, rolling down our windows and taking in the fresh air. You could see that spring was beginning to be pushed out by summer in the lush greenery that paved our way towards Chester, NY. Winding through the quaint village of Chester, we came upon a beautiful farm valley, slowed the car and stepped out onto the rich soil of Rise & Root Farm.

rise2Already several hours into their work day, we found two of Rise & Root’s farmers/owners – Karen Washington, an activist, urban garden legend and WhyHunger board member, and Lorrie Clevenger, a community organizer, farmer and former WhyHunger staffer – hard at work.

In its second season, Rise & Root is a beautiful 3-acre cooperative farm owned and managed by Karen, Lorrie, Michaela Hayes and Jane Hodge with a mission focused on food and social justice. The four women - all experienced urban farmers and social justice activists - took GrowNYC’s Beginning Farmer Program together in 2012 and began crafting a shared vision of continuing their food justice work by growing food and community beyond the city boundaries. They began looking at land and weighing their options, settling on a partnership with the Chester Agriculture Center, whose mission is “conserving prime farmland while putting it to its best use: growing clean, local food using organic management practices.” They signed an affordable 30-year lease, and began their journey.

Karen explained how their experience of growing food in cities had led them to experiment with new techniques on the farm, “We have been using raised beds and drip irrigation and laying down biodegradable black plastic for the weeds – all of these practices from urban gardening. And now some of the other farmers are incorporating these ideas!”

All their food is grown organically, without GMO seeds, through mostly hand-scale and semi-mechanical techniques. “We have a walk behind tractor,” explained Lorrie. “We grow sustainably, organically and for local markets.”

Karen went on to describe the importance of agroecologically and shared learning, “I talk to the elders to lean and hear their stories of how they used to grow without chemicals,” said Karen.

In the fields and green house they are growing tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, cabbage, cilantro, garlic, kohlrabi, radish, carrots and so much more.

Keeping true to their social justice mission, they sell the produce in different markets so it can be accessible to all, including the La Familia Verde farmer’s market in the Bronx, founded by Karen in 1998, at Manhattan’s Union Square Market and to some NYC-based restaurants. This year they are looking to sell locally in Chester.

While I was there to finally get a chance to see Karen and Lorrie’s farm in action, Raul’s purpose, and the goal of WhyHunger in setting up this trip, was much deeper. Talking with small scale farmers and learning how farming, food, social justice and activism intersect and play out in the everyday life of American farmers was his focus. Along with sharing information on the lives, struggles and success of the farmers and organizers of the MST. Karen and Lorrie were more than happy to reciprocate.

The conversation was rich and pointed as we made our way through a packed greenhouse and storage shed, across the fields and into the refrigerated room where freshly picked produce was waiting for the markets. Raul, Karen, Lorrie and the WhyHunger team talked about GMO seeds and access to land, how organizers can shift power and collective action can make change.

As Karen and Lorrie talked about racism and discrimination in the fields and farming policies in the U.S., Raul compared their stories with successes and challenges in Brazil.

“Feeding the planet is very important and dignified labor, and the people who work the land have to be able to live a dignified life,” Raul offered.

“As an African American woman, I see what is happening with farmworkers in this country as a new kind of slavery – it’s not even new really, it’s repeating in our history,” explained Karen. “How do we change that piece, the mechanisms that makes that possible? How can we change the mentality that people can be exploited for labor?”

“MST is beginning to face the same questions,” Raul replied. “We hope and foster the idea of workers coming together to share land as a social function for all society.”

“Right now in Brazil there are fewer farmers than in the colonial period,” Raul explained that land concentration is growing and control by international companies is increasing. “People’s control of the land is critical in this moment. Right now as capitalism is in crisis there is a ‘gold rush’ to buy land because it’s a solid investment.”

“Exactly – land is power,” Karen said. “It’s the same in the U.S., especially the South.”

“Right! This conversation is the basis for why we need agrarian reform!” said Raul, though he was quick to qualify – “but not like they kind you have in the U.S.” He continued, “Land was democratized in Brazil, but not for the people, to open new boarder for developers and to squash the resistance from the people who live there.”


The conversation dug deeper into food sovereignty and the power of corporate agriculture. But it ended with hope, and how hope is growing on the fields of Rise and Root and the other small farmer collectives working in Chester and beyond. How hope is growing in the success of the MST, who have organized rural families to reclaim 42 million acres of unused land for 350,000 families in order to grow food for themselves and their communities. How they have training thousands upon thousands of farmers in agroecology, organized and empowered women and youth, provided political education to resist seed patenting, developed markets for locally-produced food, and built schools in rural areas.

“We need research and support for this type of agriculture,” explained Raul. “We need a different type of logic that nourishes cultivates the land and ourselves. The MST is open and interested in building relationships with farmers around the world – just like you.”

Karen and Lorrie couldn’t agree more.

As our visit ended and we headed into town for lunch, I was sure that this exchange of ideas, learnings and shared analysis would not end that afternoon. My trip upstate was a reminder that the farmers, activists and social movements that are working to build a just, hunger free world must come together on a farm without borders.

As an organization that believes in nutritious food and social justice for all, May 16th was a night to remember for WhyHunger as their annual WhyHunger Chapin Awards dinner commenced.  Allies and friends came together at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers for an evening dedicated to celebrating activism and social movements. The plates were placed, the wine glasses filled, the stage was set. This night of music and celebration is an important moment of fundraising. In addition to all of our gracious sponsors, table and ticket buyers, we are thrilled to share that we surpassed our onsite fundraising goal, raising more than $61,000 to support programs that are fighting for an end to hunger and poverty and the right to nutritious food for all. Watch a recap video here. 
With our honorees Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, known as MST in the U.S, (Harry Chapin Award), Kenny Loggins (ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award) and Tom Morello (Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award) present, excitement was in the air as the audience took their seats after a tasty cocktail hour. 
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The night began with an impactful performance by our very own Board Members Tom Chapin, Jen Chapin, Joe D'Urso, Seth Saltzman, and Tom's bandmates Michael Mark and Jon Cobert . In the hopes of bringing inspiration and fun to the stage, the band set the atmosphere for our host of the evening, WhyHunger Hungerthon partner and host of Sirius XM’s “Stand Up! with Pete Dominick”, Pete Dominick. Pete’s wit and smart humor got the crowd revved up as our Executive Director Noreen Springstead took the stage to give a warm welcome.
Sharing a little of her experience and personal reflections, Noreen stated: “I am honored to be standing here tonight in my second year as executive director and 24th year as a staff member of WhyHunger.  My enthusiasm and passion about our mission and our path forward keeps growing. My hope for you this evening is that you have fun, feel inspired and leave with the clear understanding of our work and knowledge that charity will not end hunger; working for social justice will.”
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Before the awards presentation, our attention was brought to a short animated video about WhyHunger’s unique approach in supporting grassroots solutions and social movements. In a nutshell, the video expressed the importance of supporting WhyHunger’s mission. It’s not only about feeding communities, it’s about building and supporting social movements that will find a way to create their own solutions in the face of adversity . The support that WhyHunger receives help to fuel those social movements in their commitment long-term change and justice; as Noreen stated, “As you can see, we must go beyond the traditional charity models and boldly invest in the grassroots solutions and social movements that are transforming our world.”
With much applause and agreement, Noreen presented the first award to the MST who was represented by Raul Amorim. “For more than 32 years, the MST has been organizing rural families to reclaim unused land for the purpose of growing food for themselves and their communities. Along the way, they have trained thousands upon thousands of farmers in agroecology, organized and empowered women and youth, provided political education to resist seed patenting, developed markets for locally-produced food, and built schools in rural areas.  ” Raul gave a passionate speech and it became clear that the work that WhyHunger and our partners do is more important than ever. 
Next Seth Saltzman, ASCAP Senior Vice President and recently appointed Board Chair, presented the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award to Grammy-winner, songwriter and humanitarian Kenny Loggings, saying “Kenny is supporting WhyHunger’s 2016 Summer Meals Rock for Kids campaign as an artist ambassador, to connect kids in need with free, nutritious meals all summer long when they are most in need. We are so happy that Kenny has joined the WhyHunger family and gives new meaning to ‘Whenever I Call You Friend. After receiving his award, Kenny performed Conviction Of The Heart and Danny’s Song singing “How long must we wait to change this world bound in chains that we live in”.
The night continued with MSNBC’s John Heilemann presenting the Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award to Grammy-winner, rock guitarist and activist Tom Morello. As Tom rocked out on his guitar, marked with “whatever it takes,” the audience felt and understood the meaningful messages in Morello’s music.
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A personal highlight of the night for me, was when all honorees, board members, staff and audience members joined together onstage, at the urging of Tom Morello, to laugh, sing and danced to a rousing rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.” It was a night where strangers became friends and activism rang loud and proud. The fun times were capped off with WhyHunger’s first gala After Party with the 4 D’s: DJ, dancing, drinks, and desserts!
In a world where the fight for social justice is an everyday struggle, it was nice to end the night proudly proclaiming that we all deserve equal rights, while celebrating the substance of WhyHunger’s mission. After all, this land is our land isn’t it?


Welcome to WhyHunger’s Connect Blog featuring stories, projects and articles from the community-based organizations, organizers and social movements that are building the movement for food justice.

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