Bill Ayres - Copy

Bill Ayres

Ed. Notes- This is where it all began for Jane and me. Jane had left the computer industry to pursue a Doctorate in Nutrition Education at Columbia University and I had retired from the wonderful world of commerce. Jane was given an assignment to interview someone in the food/nutrition field. That person so long ago was Bill Ayres and the rest is history. We joined WhyHunger to help in marketing and policy. We became members of the WHY Board of Directors and the seeds for what became Kids Can Make A Difference (KIDS) took root and as we enter our 26th year we owe a great deal to the folks at WhyHunger.




Let’s start with where you are from and your background.

When I was a child, I remember my father saying to me “Son, if I had a million dollars I would give it all away.” At the time, my father worked two low paying jobs and we were slightly above poverty level. He had grown up poor when his father died and left his mother with a four year old child. He knew about poverty and he worked hard to keep us out of poverty. Yet, he also knew that there were millions of Americans who were poor. He would have wanted to right that wrong but he too died at a relatively young age.

How did you go from being a Catholic Priest to developing an interest in hunger and education?

As a young Roman Catholic priest on Long Island I brought food to poor families in our town, but I knew that was not nearly enough. How would they eat the next day and the next month and the next year? I wanted to do more, but what and how. Fortunately, I became a radio talk-show host and rock and roll DJ with a WABC Network radio show Called “On This Rock” in 1973. I interviewed musicians and played their music. One of my first guests was a wonderful singer/songwriter named Tom Chapin. At the end of the show Tom told me “You should interview my brother Harry Chapin. He loves to talk.” I took his advice and he was right, Harry was a talker and after the show he invited me to dinner at his house in Huntington Long Island. I talked about the scandal of hunger all over the world, including right here in America. Harry and his wife Sandy Chapin held meetings in their house where we talked to their neighbors and friends about hunger and what we should do.

Where did the idea of a concert to bring attention to hunger come from?

I had an idea to do a concert like the then recent Concert for Bangladesh that George Harrison created. This one would be for the fourteen millions of starving people in Sub-Sahara Africa. We brought our plan to the United Nations. They agreed and we all tried to make it happen but it did not work out. Sometimes, even a good idea that people want to happen does not work out. I had another idea that I called Hungerthon, a 24 hour radio marathon in NYC to raise awareness about hunger. Mel Karmazin, the General Manager of WNEW –FM agreed and we did a Hungerthon on Thanksgiving weekend in 1975 and in each of the next two years as well as Hungerthons in several other major cities throughout the United States. We also started an anti-hunger organization which today is called WhyHunger.

You talk a great deal about WhyHunger and for those who might not be familiar with the organization, please tell us about it.

WhyHunger is a grassroots support organization. Through our Nourish Network for the Right to Food we help hundreds of community based hunger and poverty organizations do more that feed people but also connect them to services and programs that will help them get out of poverty through job training programs, emergency health care, childcare, housing and education. Our Grassroots Action Network connects these organizations to one another to advocate with the federal agencies, especially The Agriculture Department for an improvement in all the federal feeding and anti- poverty programs. We also run the WHY Hunger Hotline-1-800-548-6479 that has helped connect more than a million people to emergency food in their neighborhood. We also have a texting service that allows people to type in their zip code and we will send them the addresses of several emergency food programs in their neighborhood.

What issues to do you concentrate on and why?

Summer is the time when millions of children who were receiving school lunch and breakfast during the school year are hungry. Each year WhyHunger connects hundreds of thousands of children to summer meals in their neighborhood and we continue to advocate for the Department of Agriculture to invest in their Summer Meals Program to reach millions more children each year.
WhyHunger also has an International Program that funds dozens of community based hunger and poverty programs in many of the poorest countries in the world. These programs teach people to grow food sustainably through a method called Agroecology which does not depend on chemical based herbicides and fertilizer but uses the best new science and traditional farming methods. Agroecology has become a way of life for thousands of people and brought them healthier food, deeper community cooperation and a higher standard of living.

WhyHunger is also part of a growing international Global Movement for the Right to Food that is empowering millions of people to work together for better food and a better life.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers? What do you think your legacy should be?

For more than 30 years I was the Executive Director of Why Hunger and then, about five years ago I passed my position to my friend and WhyHunger partner Noreen Springsteen who has done a remarkable job to grow the organization even further. I am now called the Ambassador and Co-Founder, and happy to be a part of such an innovative and successful member of the Hunger Movement.

I hope you will look at our website whyhunger.org to learn more and how you can become a hunger advocate in your own community and school.

eliminate hunger

About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

Finding Solutions to Poverty & Inequality Alliance:

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