How do we tackle the big social problems that government should be solving? In this episode of Add Passion and Stir, Jamie Leeds, chef/owner of Hank’s Oyster Bars in Washington DC and long-time supporter of the No Kid Hungry campaign, and Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, an organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions, talk about the best ways to have an impact on the most important social problems. Leeds – who just completed the James Beard Foundation Chefs Bootcamp for Policy and Change – uses her platform to bring more attention to the issue of hunger and food waste in America. Lesley is focused on children’s healthcare issues. “When people think about the Medicaid program … they don’t realize that half of the enrollees in Medicaid are kids. That’s 37M across the country,” he points out. “The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)… serves another 8.9M kids.” However, a proposal in the Senate would have slashed Medicaid 31% for children and Congress allowed CHIP to expire on September 30th.
“How can this happen?,” asks host and Share Our Strength founder and CEO Billy Shore. “It seems like there’s this tension between things that you can do individually, but are small in impact, and wanting to do things at a bigger scale, which only government can do, but government seems to be so broken,” he observes. A veteran of Capitol Hill, Lesley saw first-hand the deepening acrimony in Congress, which led him to the conclusion he could have a bigger impact working on issues from outside government. Leeds developed a direct response to the Trump administration’s 90-day ban on immigration. Recently, her six restaurants began donating one percent of sales split among four organizations: Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and NAACP. “We needed to do something,” says Leeds. “I feel very fortunate in my profession, and feel very passionate about giving back and making sure people are taken of,” she explains. Lesley agrees with this approach. “Pick your issue or cause and really hook up with that non-profit… you feel like you’re giving to the community in some way, but it also gives you a sense of community,” he advises.
Tune in to find out how these two changemakers are marshaling resources to take on some of our biggest social problems.