Maximum Impact: Changemakers in the Age of Broken Government

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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.

Resources and Mentions:

Jamie Leeds

One of Washington’s most highly recognized chefs and restauranteurs due to her wildly successful restaurants; her very active role in the community and her 30 plus years of inspiring culinary experience in New York and Washington, DC. In May 2005, she opened her first Hank’s Oyster Bar and began serving what she termed “Urban Beach Food”. Hank’s is named after Leeds’ father, who she credits as her inspiration for becoming a chef. Since its’ opening, Hank’s Oyster Bar has been praised by Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Southern Living, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, DC magazine, The Washington Times and Fox Morning News.

Bruce Lesley

The President of First Focus, a nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. He has more than 20 years of public policy experience at all levels of government and a demonstrated commitment to making children’s lives better. Lesley directs all aspects of policy development and internal operations at First Focus. In 12 years on Capitol Hill, Lesley worked on health care, education, human services, and immigration issues in several different capacities. Most recently he served as Senior Health Policy Advisor on the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. Lesley advocated for better healthcare for children as the Director of Congressional Relations for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and as Director of Government Relations for Thomason General Hospital, a public hospital in El Paso, Texas.

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.

Hank’s Oyster Bar

At Hank’s Oyster Bar patrons enjoy coastal favorites and New England beach fare classics like lobster rolls, daily fish specials and meat ‘n’ two. Lightly fried items such as the popcorn shrimp and calamari and Ipswich clams balance Hank’s ice bar options which consist of a selection of raw oysters, tartar and ceviche.

First Focus

First Focus is a nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. First Focus leads a comprehensive advocacy strategy, with its hands-on experience with federal policymaking and a commitment to seeking policy solutions. First Focus’s comprehensive advocacy strategy works at each of the four stages of the policy change process: raise awareness, develop policy solutions, build will and take action.

Campaign for Children

A nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus. The Campaign for Children presses for policy changes to improve the well-being and protect the rights of the next generation of America’s leaders. Its advocacy is focused in the areas of child health, education, early childhood, family economics, child welfare, immigration, and child safety, in addition to tax and budget policies that lift children out of poverty.

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