Hunger Doesn't Take a Summer Vacation

Co-authored with Paul Brown, CEO, Arby's Restaurant Group, Atlanta, Ga.

"Are you excited for summer?" asked Miss Nelson on the last day of school. With tears beginning to roll down his face, Andrew shook his head. Miss Nelson was all too familiar with reactions from students like Andrew at her suburban Atlanta school.

Millions of children like Andrew depend on low-cost school meals for breakfast and lunch, so the summer can mean missed meals, hunger and stress. Across America, 21 million children get free or reduced-price school lunch every day. But just over 3 million of those kids receive free meals over the summer.

Summer is the hardest time for families to put meals on the table. Research from Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign finds that 43 percent of families find themselves without enough food when school is out. They spend $300 more each summer month on groceries. Rising food costs are making this summer even more expensive: the Consumer Price Index shows that grocery prices have risen more in the first four months of 2014 than all of 2013.

National summer meals programs, like the United States Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program, were designed to ensure that low-income children get the food they need when school is out. They helped ensure that Andrew and his neighbors could get reliable access to free, healthy meals in suburban Atlanta last summer. However, 6 out of every 7 kids who need these meals aren't getting them. Many families don't know about the programs and, even when they do, it can be tough for kids to get to the sites where meals are served.

Missed meals can have a harmful effect on kids' education: a study from the National Summer Learning Association shows that low-income children - the same group that depends on school meals for their basic nutrition - lose more than two months of reading achievement over the summer.

As a nation, we can do better. That's why the Arby's Foundation and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign have formed a public-private partnership to tackle summer hunger - a $4 million investment called School's Out, Food's In. Our partnership builds on the work of currently funded summer meals programs; state and local governments, which administer them; and community organizations that serve the meals. It leverages the power of the private sector and everyday citizens to make a change for kids in the summertime.

When the right partners team up to tackle a social issue, the results can be transformative. That's the vision we have for School's Out, Food's In - to ensure that every kid can get the food he or she needs, every day. We bring different assets to this fight. Arby's has 50 years of expertise in scaling a food service operation and the visibility of a nationally-recognized and trusted brand. Share Our Strength has 30 years of experience connecting kids to meals, and bringing a diverse group of partners to focus around one single goal: ending childhood hunger in America.

All year long, we have been working to expand the availability of summer meals throughout the country. We've invested in groups making a real difference, largely through innovative tactics, because we want to help deepen their impact. We've collected and shared best practices across these groups. While every community has its own challenges, there are proven strategies that need to be better communicated across state lines, so we're facilitating that conversation. We're marketing directly to families in need, so they know free meals are available this summer.

But we can't do this alone.

Corporations can join this movement, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do. We can't build a strong workforce if kids are falling behind over the summer. We can't have a strong America tomorrow with weak kids today.

Advocates and policymakers can help overcome the obstacles standing in the way of kids and summer meals, and modernize the program to make sure it is reaching all kids in need.

Everyday citizens are part of the solution too. They can tell friends, neighbors, church groups, and social media networks that a list of local free summer meals sites is available by texting 'FOOD' to 877-877 or call 1-866-3HUNGRY. They can contact their elected officials. They can make a donation to No Kid Hungry in Arby's stores this summer.

Together, we can keep our promise to Andrew and millions more children this summer.

Bill Shore, Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength, Washington, D.C.

Bill Shore is the founder and chief executive officer of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that is ending childhood hunger in America. Shore founded Share Our Strength in 1984 with his sister Debbie and a $2,000 cash advance on a credit card. Since then, Share Our Strength has raised and invested more than $376 million in the fight against hunger, and has won the support of national leaders in business, government, health and education, sports and entertainment.

Shore is also the chairman of Community Wealth Partners, a Share Our Strength organization that helps change agents solve social problems at the magnitude they exist.

From 1978 through 1987, Shore served on the senatorial and presidential campaign staffs of former U.S. Senator Gary Hart (D-Colorado). From 1988 to 1991, Shore served as chief of staff for former U.S. Senator Robert Kerrey (D-Nebraska).

Shore is the author of four books focused on social change, including "Revolution of the Heart" (Riverhead Press, 1995), "The Cathedral Within" (Random House, 1999), "The Light of Conscience" (Random House, 2004) and most recently, "The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men" (PublicAffairs, 2010).

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Shore earned his B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania and his law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Shore served as a director of The Timberland Company from 2001 through 2011. He was also named one of America's Best Leaders (October 2005) by US News & World Report.

Shore has been an adjunct professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and an advisor for the Reynolds Foundation Fellowship program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. In May 2014, Shore was appointed to the National Commission on Hunger by U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Brown, CEO, Arby's Restaurant Group, Atlanta, Ga.

Paul Brown was named CEO of Arby's Restaurant Group in April 2013. Brown came to Arby's from Hilton Worldwide Inc. As Hilton Worldwide's president of Brands & Commercial Services, Brown was the company's global leader for brand management, product standards, marketing, sales, pricing, eCommerce, loyalty program, franchise relations and information technology.

He joined Hilton Worldwide in November 2008. Previously he served as president of Prior to Expedia, Brown was a partner at McKinsey & Company. Based in London, he was a leader of the firm's global travel and hospitality practice and served clients in all sectors of the travel and hospitality business.

Brown also worked at InterContinental Hotels Group, where he served as senior vice president of Global Brand Services and was responsible for global sales, reservations, the Priority Club loyalty program, e-commerce and purchasing. He was also a manager for The Boston Consulting Group in the firm's Chicago and Atlanta offices. Brown serves as a member of the board of directors of H&R Block Inc., the Georgia Tech advisory board and the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington. He has also served as an executive-in-residence at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.