I recently reached out to Debbie Shore, co-founder and associate director of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit that is rallying restaurants, chefs, food companies and food lovers to take a pledge to stop childhood hunger. In this question-and-answer session, Shore explains what it takes to be a leader against childhood hunger, what it’s like to work with her brother and how restaurants can get involved.

What leadership qualities are essential to making sure that children have enough nutritious food?

One leadership quality that I think is required is just taking a stand against child hunger and pledging your support to end it. Seven years ago, when Share Our Strength celebrated its 20th anniversary, we decided it was no longer good enough to fight hunger and poverty broadly, as we had been doing those first 20 years. Instead, we decided to invest our financial and human capital in ending child hunger in America.

Equally important to a commitment to ending child hunger and leadership to develop the right strategy for actually doing it is having the discipline and commitment to establish metrics, measure the impact and be accountable to the established goals. It takes a certain kind of leadership to instill and maintain that discipline.

How can restaurant owners and managers build awareness about the problem of childhood hunger?

The easiest way is take the No Kid Hungry pledge at NoKidHungry.org and ask colleagues, vendors and customers to do the same. Pledge takers become part of the national movement to end childhood hunger and can choose from a variety of actions that help us expand our work and raise awareness.

Restaurants of any size and category can participate in Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry this September, by registering at DineOutForNoKidHungry.org and creating a promotion for the week of Sept. 18. Past participants have used a variety of creative promotions to drive sales, engage employees, generate customer donations and get the word out about childhood hunger.

Larger restaurant companies can also become a No Kid Hungry campaign corporate partner, which helps us take our No Kid Hungry strategy to more states, cities and communities.

Restaurants in Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation cities can contribute their chef’s culinary expertise to their local Taste of the Nation event, or join their local Taste of the Nation planning committee and publicize their participation on their website, in blog posts or through their social media channels, news releases and restaurant advertising.

What is it like to work with a family member in the same organization when you’re a leader? (Shore’s brother, Bill Shore, is co-founder and executive director of Share Our Strength.)

If I can think of one thing that is equally satisfying to committing these past 25-plus years to ending hunger, it’s working with my brother, Billy. Share Our Strength was his brainchild, and I feel so lucky every day that he asked me to start it with him. He has so many outstanding qualities I couldn’t list them all, but in addition to being the visionary for the organization, he provides inspiration daily whether he is speaking to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a chef, a celebrity or a Share Our Strength intern. He is authentic and kind, razor sharp and curious about all sorts of things that he often ties back to how and the reason we are successful at Share Our Strength.

Billy is committed to ending child hunger in America and has inspired thousands of others to be, too, and he leads by example. Of the many things I’ve learned from him professionally, what has been particularly helpful is that he pushes staff to identify what they are uniquely qualified to do — what they do better than anyone else. I find that enormously helpful because it has forced me to continually evolve and ensures that I am adding value to the work.

How can restaurants be leaders to help end childhood hunger in America?

Nineteen restaurant executives serve on the 32-member Dine Out For No Kid Hungry advisory board. Each has committed company resources to making Dine Out For No Kid Hungry successful and reaching our goal of engaging 5,000 restaurants to raise $3 million. Each has identified one or more specific restaurant company to personally recruit to Dine Out For No Kid Hungry this year. And each contributes something unique to the program’s success.

For example, last year, Kona Grill CEO Marc Buehler produced a hip video that any registered restaurant could use to educate its crew about child hunger and motivate members to support the restaurant’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry promotion. Robin Ahearn, chief marketing officer of Ignite Restaurant Group, has shared tools that Ignite uses to successfully train employees in the brands’ Dine Out For No Kid Hungry promotions. We are modeling a set of employee-engagement resources around these and making them available to all participating restaurants.

It truly astonishes me how much these executives share for the sake of the cause. Their competitiveness is focused on making a significant contribution to ending childhood hunger.

Are you fighting against childhood hunger or another cause? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Share Our Strength

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One Response to “How to be a leader against childhood hunger”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a fabulous campaign and one that I would love to see get more traction. In Chicago, valuable classroom time is given to feed kids breakfast and lunch and the teachers, if you will pardon the expression, are fed up. They get hammered for the lowest scores in the country but are losing classroom time for french toast sticks. We don't have an obesity problem, WE HAVE AN UNKNOWN HUNGER PROBLEM.

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