Mediaplanet: You’ve been working to help end hunger for over 30 years. How and why did you become an anti-hunger advocate?

Jeff Bridges: I couldn’t ignore the hunger crisis in Africa. So in 1983, I helped found the End Hunger Network, a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger worldwide. We shifted our attention to U.S. hunger in 1986 when it became clear that child hunger in America was getting worse. We focused on getting the entertainment industry and the media to help us. Three years ago I met Bill Shore from Share Our Strength and joined his No Kid Hungry campaign as the national spokesperson.

MP: Why is conquering childhood hunger important to you?

JB: I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and it always comes back to my own children. As a father of three daughters and now a granddaughter, I can’t imagine how I would have been able to live with myself if I wasn’t able to feed them. Imagine the depression a parent feels if they can’t take care of their own children. To me that’s not American and I have to do something about it.

LIFTING SPIRITS: No Kid Hungry national spokesperson, Jeff Bridges with local children at a summer meals event in Santa Barbara, CA. Photo: ID’s Trinity Wheeler

MP: What is one simple way readers can contribute to the fight against childhood hunger?

JB: Take the No Kid Hungry pledge and commit to working with me this year. If you can donate, that would be great too. Every bit helps -- just $1 can help connect a child to up to 10 meals. And if you visit, you can find ways to get involved and make a difference right in your own community too.  

MP: You’re a world-renowned actor. How have you used your celebrity status to help end childhood hunger?

JB: Hungry kids in America don’t have a voice ­— there are very few folks speaking on their behalf. I’ve been able to reach Cabinet members and national policymakers, governors and mayors, educators, the media, CEOs of major corporations, the culinary world, moms, dads and kids. Now we all speak for the 16 million kids in America who are struggling with hunger.

MP: Sixteen million kids in America struggle with hunger. Why?

JB: Well, kids in this country aren’t hungry for the reasons you might think. We have plenty of food. And we have food and nutrition programs, like school breakfast and summer meal programs. But so many children don’t have access to these programs, or there’s a stigma involved if you’re the kid who has to get to school early to get your free breakfast. But we are changing the way kids get connected to meals and we’re seeing huge success all over America.

"Hungry kids in America don’t have a voice ­— there are very few folks speaking on their behalf."

MP: How can children benefit from breakfast in the classroom?

JB: When we serve breakfast “after the bell,” so that all kids eat in first period, we reach the greatest number of kids who might normally come to school hungry. There’s no stigma, no getting to school early.  The cool thing is that three out of four teachers around the country who’ve put "Breakfast After the Bell" into place say they’ve seen an improvement in student concentration. More than half have seen a decrease in discipline and illness problems.

MP: What improvements do you anticipate to be made in the foreseeable future to help end childhood hunger?

JB: Getting more schools to move breakfast out of the cafeteria and make it a part of the school day will be a big win for hungry kids. We’re working with principals, food service directors and politicians to get more schools to serve "Breakfast After the Bell." In two years, we’ve helped kids in need connect to more than 28 million more breakfasts nationwide. Getting kids summer meals when school is out will continue to be vital.

MP: What are you most proud of in your career thus far?

JB: Doing my part to end childhood hunger in America.