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CROSSING BRIDGES TO END CHILDHOOD HUNGER IN AMERICA

Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges Presents Compelling Case
for Americans to Act Now to End Childhood Hunger

by Amy Bennett, WG, and Alan Schlaifer, Esq., W, both member of Wharton Club of DC

Hunger.  We all can identify with the word, although the context for each of us may vary greatly.  

In his comments to a capacity audience of enthusiastic fans at the National Press Club, Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges reached out to the audience by connecting us on a personal level to his cause, “No Kid Hungry.” (NoKidHungry.org).  As the national spokesperson for acclaimed nonprofit Share Our Strength (SOS), he introduced the topic (more accurately, epidemic) of child hunger in a modest but charming way.  He also described this initiative as "the most significant thing" he's ever done.

His shocking statistics are likely to spur action, and he made everyone feel that they can make a difference: 17 million children - 25% of our nation’s total 18 or younger - are not receiving sufficient food, despite Government programs supposed to meet this need. Recently, he met with high ranking officials of the Federal Government, along with Billy Shore, a Penn alum who heads SOS and answered one question from the audiience.

They are also reaching out on a state-by-state basis towards President Obama’s goal of ending child hunger by 2015. Mr. Bridges proudly introduced Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the first chief state official to embrace this goal for his state. Mr. Bridges, and the Governor when he came to the mike, encouraged all other governors to do likewise.

Mr. Bridges also acknowledged that nutritious food is key to both hunger and obesity, citing a proactive approach of a D.C. Charter School to do better. It has been successful in allocating funds to healthy foods that cost less than the fatty, starchy fast food alternatives.  

Another factor he brought to light: inadequate nutrition is one of the factors that has led to only 25% of youth able to pass military physicals. This creates a national security challenge.

The luncheon then transitioned to Mr. Bridges’ film experience and his passion for music.  Weaving in stories of his family (such as father Lloyd Bridges, of Sea Hunt fame, brother Beau Bridges) and his background, the atmosphere lightened in a way that was moving and funny at the same time.  Mr. Bridges graciously answered questions on both his pursuit to end child hunger, his film career and his family.

Even advice for a happy marriage was part of the discussion, given Bridges‘ 33-year marriage, a rarity in Hollywood. His simple suggestion: listen to the other person, let him or her air their views without interruption.  

Jeff Bridges has made a wonderful transition. In Crazy Heart, he won an Oscar for Best Actor in playing fictional, alcoholic country music star “Bad” Blake. He was a hideous villain in Iron Man.  

In real life, not acting, he made a a compelling case for a “good” cause that resonated with the audience.  Many in the Press Club Ballroom were moved, and it is likely they and many others who watched the national broadcast of the program will support his cause, and see his next movie!

And if the Motion Picture Academy ever awards an Oscar for good deeds, he should win that, too.