Imagine if Share Our Strength could make the same difference for hungry kids around the rest of the world that we have here in the U.S. No doubt it would be a long journey. We are thrilled to be taking modest new steps in that direction. Just as here in the U.S., our strategy focuses on schools as a delivery system for vital nutrition.
Share Our Strength was founded in 1984 because of the catastrophic Ethiopian famine that year. Our early focus was international grant making to alleviate the suffering of children and families. But it quickly became apparent that poverty in the United States was leaving too many of our own citizens hungry and struggling. Our focus shifted to the ambitious but achievable goal of ending childhood hunger in America. With the number of American kids experiencing hunger reduced by more than 30%, we are on our way to achieving that. We won’t stop until we do.
Much of the progress of our No Kid Hungry campaign has been accomplished by increasing access to and participation in school breakfast and summer meals programs. It is perhaps that for which we are best known. But we never lost our aspiration for sharing our strength with those in dire, often life-and-death, circumstances around the world. We focused for so long and so hard on our domestic work that many of our stakeholders were not fully aware of our history of making small international grants as well as humanitarian grants in the wake of international disasters.
After months of careful deliberation, our staff proposed and our board approved a kind of re-boot of our international grant making. One goal was greater alignment with our decade’s worth of learnings from the No Kid Hungry campaign leveraging our experience with school meals. While many of our donors intend for their financial donations to support No Kid Hungry, many others support Share Our Strength’s general operating costs and thus enable us to continue our international work and support disaster relief.
For 2018 we’ve selected two extraordinary organizations to support with grants of $100,000 each – both focused on expanding access to school meals and working in collaboration with local communities and government leaders. In Zambia it is Mary’s Meals. In India it is Akshaya Patra. The result will be more than 12,000 children getting school meals in the year ahead – and a chance to break the cycle of poverty.
One of our longest serving and wisest board members, Joni Doolin, perfectly captured our rationale for moving in this direction. After the board signified its approval she said: “I am personally delighted that we are making the pivot, no matter how small, to the international work. We are part of a global society, and ultimately the global goals will be our goals. I have always been so proud of Share Our Strength for being willing to work on the unpopular fringes”. I couldn’t have said it better.
We look forward to keeping you posted on the impact and growth of our international work, and the role you are playing in improving the lives of kids