To change systems that perpetuate poverty and hunger, where do we start? Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread in Boston, discusses eradicating hunger with Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA) on this episode of Add Passion and Stir. McAleer describes a multi-level approach that uses on-the- ground learning to drive a wider systems-level change. “We’re in community health centers, we’re in schools, we’ve got this hotline, but we take that information that we’re seeing on the ground and pivot quickly to larger scale systems change,” she says. She cites a successful program they piloted where children enrolled in SNAP (food stamps) would automatically be enrolled in school breakfast programs. Luz sees a similar effect on systems in his industry. One out of every 10 jobs in America is related to the restaurant industry and almost 50% of the businesses are minority owned and 40% are women owned. Many workers come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and when they succeed, they want to provide opportunities to other people. “It’s heart-breaking to see initially and then heart-warming [later] to see as people excel in our industry,” he says. “I don’t think you’re ever going to see a more philanthropic group of people who believe in being a good neighbor.”
Both guests talk about formative experiences that affected their own attitudes toward hunger and giving back. For McAleer, it was experiencing food insecurity growing up as one of three children with a single mother. She remembers going to bed with her “mom on the phone saying ‘how am I going to feed these kids?’” For Luz, it was one of his first jobs with the 99 Restaurant Group, where the owner’s passion for giving back was built into the business. This experience laid the foundation for his own attitudes about philanthropy which he brought to the MRA board and mission. The MRA holds restaurant dinners where the team donates their time, suppliers donate food and beverage, and all the money goes to a cause, including the No Kid Hungry campaign. They did five dinners the first year, eight dinners last year, and will do 12 this year. “We think we can take this across the entire state,” he predicts.
Learn about how channeling resources, knowledge, and compassion can create systems change that can end hunger.