It’s Way Past Time: Focusing Empathy to Solve Hunger

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

How can we focus our empathy for others to solve big social problems? The two guests on this week’s episode of Add Passion and Stir use their empathy to make the world a better place. AARP Foundation President Lisa Ryerson’s conscience led her to mission-driven work. Right now, that mission is hunger among America’s older population. “Ten million people who are 50 and older are hungry each and every day in this nation. And older adults who are hungry living in poverty don’t often ask for the help they need,” she says. Buttercream Bake Shop owner and long-time No Kid Hungry supporter Tiffany MacIsaac also carefully considers how she gives back. “It really is so hard because you… want to help everyone… but for us, food is such an important part of our life. We’ve invested most of our energy into helping with hunger,” she says. Both of these changemakers are focused on real impact. “Focus does matter when you’re trying to drive outcomes,” says Ryerson. “It’s way past time to solve for hunger in America,” she states. AARP Foundation is a founding member of the Root Cause Coalition – an Add Passion and Stir sponsor – which addresses the root causes of health disparities.

Referencing recent headlines, host and Share Our Strength founder and CEO Billy Shore asks about sexual harassment in the work place – especially the traditionally male-dominated world of professional kitchens. “For women, these stories are not surprises,” says Ryerson. MacIsaac agrees. “That’s what’s unfortunate. I think everyone knows it, but nobody wants to talk about it. [We need to] force people to talk about it and force people to confront it,” she believes. She also emphasizes the need to speak out when injustice or harassment is happening to someone else. Whether talking about poverty, hunger or sexual harassment, Ryerson concludes, “We are all bound together. We need to take care of each other and not be blind to injustices.”

Share in this multi-layered conversation about humanity and our sense of shared accountability.

Resources and Mentions:

Lisa Ryerson

Lisa Marsh Ryerson is president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity. At the helm since the fall of 2013, she sets the Foundation’s strategic direction and leads its social impact initiatives. She is also a member of AARP’s Executive Leadership Team, which directs the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working on behalf of the 50+ population. Ms. Ryerson joined the Foundation after 18 years as the president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, New York. Her many accomplishments there include increasing enrollment by 45 percent – revitalizing the economy of the surrounding community – and launching an endowed Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.

Tiffany MacIsaac

The chef owner of Buttercream Bake Shop in Washington DC. She attended the culinary arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education. In 2009, Tiffany and her husband, Chef Kyle Bailey, moved to DC to open Birch & Barley, which not only received 3 stars from The Washington Post but also gave her the platform to be awarded the honor of Best Pastry Chef by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2010. During her 5 years with the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, she ran the pastry program for 14 properties including Buzz Bakery and GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts. Tiffany was also selected as a James Beard Award semi-finalist three years in a row and was featured in several publications such as Food & Wine, The Local Palate, and Art Culinaire.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Root Cause Coalition

The Root Cause Coalition is a national, member-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of health disparities by focusing on hunger and other social determinants leading to nationwide epidemic of preventable chronic health conditions.

AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income vulnerable older Americans have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining social bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is AARP’s affiliated charity.

Buttercream Bake Shop

Known for quality, excellence and small-batch baking, Buttercream Bake Shop was founded by pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac and cake decorator Alexandra Mudry-Till. Rooted in years of training, commitment to the process, and the desire to make sure that everything you taste is as fresh and delicious as it can be, they scratch-bake everything in the shop and every order, every day from the finest ingredients available. Buttercream works with local farms and markets.

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