With twenty restaurants, eleven best-selling cookbooks, and countless signature recipes under his belt, it’s safe to say that celebrity chef Mario Batali knows food. In fact, his close relationship with food is what gave rise to his latest mission; combatting hunger in America.
The most recent government statistics indicate that in 2015, 42 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including more than 13 million children. These are statistics that Batali is working diligently to improve.
“My livelihood is about feeding people and the idea that some people can’t be fed is something that perplexes me, particularly in this country and in this time of wealth,” he explains. America has more than enough to feed all its citizens, but this wealth is accompanied by colossal waste. By some estimates, nearly half of the food grown and processed in the United States goes to waste. “It’s clear that hunger relief is well within our reach, “ he continues. “I can’t just sit back and wait — I need to join in and make things happen.”
A collective approach
In 2008, Mario founded the Mario Batali Foundation, which works to feed, protect, educate and empower children and their families.
“Last month, we made three major grants to improve literacy and nutrition for children in need in the Boston area,” he states. With Food Corps, First Book and Books for Kids, Batali’s foundation donated 22,000 books to Boston-area educators. “Seeing this culmination of hard work and effort was gratifying and special. Our connection to the community is stronger than ever; it’s a fantastic feeling.”
From Facebook to Congress
Batali urges his fans to give back to their communities whenever they can; and that contribution doesn’t necessarily have to be a dollar amount.
“These days, helping doesn’t necessarily mean donating money — it can be as simple as sharing someone’s story and activating awareness,” he explains. “With social media and easy access to content, we’ve been able to put a face and a name to the cause. We see people’s stories — their struggles and their triumphs against hunger. It’s helped people to get involved on a grassroots level so they can champion the cause in any way they can.”
Many believe that ending hunger starts with government. Elected officials have the resources to solve the food crisis, and it’s up to U.S. citizens to hold their representatives accountable.
“We need to push our government to keep funding the programs that make hunger relief possible,” Batali urges. “In our current administration we’re seeing proposals to cut vital federal programs that support hard-working families. It’s our responsibility to be informed and to urge our local and federal government to continue to fund nutrition and support programs. It’s not going to happen overnight. And it may not happen in the next four years, but with persistence and courage, we can push for what needs to happen … and make it happen.”
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