Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

No Kid Hungry and the human capital needed for national security

Friday, March 23, 2012


One of the strongest arguments for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is coming from one of the most surprising places: The Council on Foreign Relations.

A report issued this week warned that America’s national security and economic prosperity are at risk if schools do not improve, asserting that “The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital. The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.” See @
The report may not have specifically focused on hunger, but it could not have been more focused on the kinds of schools No Kid Hungry knows firsthand: Parker Elementary in Chicago where we launched No Kid Hungry last week; the Robert Morehead School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas where we shot the school breakfast video; Principal’s Mac’s Old Mill Middle School North in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Joel Klein, former Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education and one of the 30 commissioners responsible for the report explained: “One statistic that blew members of this task force away is that three out of four kids today in America are simply ineligible for military service. It’s unbelievable. We’re drawing our national security forces from a very small segment of the population. And a lot of the problem is they simply don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to serve in the military.”

Commission members included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp, Craig Barrett, ex-CEO of Intel, and others including Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a vocal advocate for school children being well fed so that teachers are able to teach effectively.

Make no mistake: any discussion of America’s dependence on human capital must include a discussion of whether our school children are fed, fit, and ready to learn.

As we continue to strategically broaden the base of support for No Kid Hungry, we need to join the conversation where it is happening, right now, and in the context of the stakes being higher than ever for our national and economic security. We need to embrace but go beyond the great work and partnerships of state anti-hunger commissions, food banks, nutrition educators, and even pediatricians. We also need business, military, and education leaders like those behind the Council on Foreign Relations report. We couldn’t be off to a better start, but we still have a long way to go and we can only get there with a broader coalition of national leaders.