“One in seven people are hungry.”
This sobering fact flashed over a video of smiling African children, as Project FEED founder Lauren Bush Lauren and MSNBC’s Alex Witt took the stage on day three of the Women in the World summit.
Lauren, now 27, was a student traveling with the United Nations World Food Program in 2005 when she became determined to find a way to curb the starvation she witnessed in many parts of the world. For children “born in Africa or Guatemala or different countries around the world suffering from poverty and hunger, it’s just a lottery,” she told Witt.
That same year, the very first FEED bag—a handmade canvas tote with the number “1” printed on it—was created. Witt held up the bag for the audience at Lincoln Center Saturday and noted, “This fed a school child for one year with nutritious food.” Since then, Lauren, a model and fashion designer, has teamed up with the U.N. World Food Program to provide over 65 million school meals to children around the world, through the sale and production of tote bags.
While ending hunger is Project FEED’s main objective, it’s not the only thing Bush’s organization accomplishes. In Kenya, by employing local women artisans and graduates of a school for the deaf, Project FEED offers both an income for those who might not otherwise find a job and the pride in knowing that their handicraft is feeding children in their own community. Assurance that they’ll be fed at school is also an incentive for children to go to school and stay there, Lauren pointed out.
“World hunger is this overwhelming far away social issue,” Lauren admitted, but her bags offer a tangible way to get involved. “Instead of giving a friend a card that says ‘I’ve made a donation in your name,’ you're giving them something they can enjoy,” she pointed out.
Project FEED also offers large corporations an opportunity to give back. By selling the bags for $10 each at their stores, Whole Foods, for example, was able feed every single school child in Rwanda for one year. Lauren has also enlisted in the help of fellow designer Judith Leiber who created the “Feed 1,000 Clutch”—the sale of just one purse provides meals for 1,000 children.
“It’s about activating people, especially young women, to help the fight against world hunger,” Lauren said.