“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
One in five children is at risk of hunger in the United States—that’s 16 million children going to bed and waking up without regular access to food. Children concerned about where to find their next meal are not capable of focusing or performing well in school. While the numbers are staggering, the real issue is the impact food insecurity has on our nation’s youth. Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development. Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity.
While the issue of hunger and food insecurity is complicated, feeding a child is not. With that idea in mind, the Sodexo Foundation was created to tackle the issue. Since its inception in 1999, the Sodexo Foundation has made significant strides in establishing its place as a leader in the fight against child hunger—but, we still have a long road ahead and we cannot do it alone.
Through collaboration and partnerships with other anti-hunger organizations, the Sodexo Foundation gains invaluable insight and power to influence genuine change within the communities we serve. By engaging in joint efforts with likeminded organizations, we are more effectively able to work towards our dream of eradicating child hunger in our country. Here are just a few of the Sodexo Foundation and Sodexo-supported programs making a significant impact by engaging communities:
- Sodexo Foundation Event –Today we celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Sodexo Foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year, which always reaffirms and reenergizes our commitment to creating positive change in communities across the country. At the event, we honor our Heroes of Everyday Life® and Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholars.
- Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholars –We are committed to empowering youth who are dedicated to ending hunger. The cycle of hunger is hard to break but the cycle can be broken by this generation of young leaders, which is why Sodexo is excited to award students who’ve already made a tremendous impact in their communities with both a $5,000 academic scholarship and a matching donation to the hunger charity of their choice.
- Heroes of Everyday Life® – Honors Sodexo employees who’ve demonstrated an inspiring level of commitment by giving their spare time to help fight hunger and positively improve the quality of life within their communities. These nominees will also receive a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
- Feeding Our Future®– Feeding Our Future works to ensure that children have access to free nutritious meals all summer long. This summer we will host programs in 24 cities serving over 420,000 meals.
- USDA Summer Food Service Program –Beyond Sodexo’s Feeding Our Future program, our accounts provide meals for the USDA Summer Food Service Program, serving thousands of free summer meals to hungry children to help meet their nutritional needs during the summer months.
Reflecting on all that has been accomplished in the past 16 years, it gives me overwhelming joy to see how much we have grown. While Mother Teresa taught not to focus on numbers, there are certain numbers we are proud to have seen grow as a result of our commitment to dreaming big. In 2000, roughly 250 people attended the 1st Sodexo Foundation dinner and the event raised $78,400. Now the annual Sodexo Foundation dinner is the largest fundraiser of the year. In fact, $1 million has been raised four consecutive years. When the Sodexo Foundation was created, there was no way of predicting we would be here today having granted more than $25 million to fund programs dedicated to supporting the battle against childhood hunger.
Looking to the future, we continue to instill the values that drive our work in the hearts and minds of our nation’s youth. In the hope of cultivating an emerging generation of passionate leaders, we have been blown away by the incredible work done by empowered and engaged youth across the country who work tirelessly to make a positive difference within their local communities.
Honoring individuals dedicated to creating change, Sodexo Foundation celebrates the contributions of the students recognized as Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholars as well as the Sodexo employees celebrated as Heroes of Everyday Life®. We all have big dreams to help improve the world in which we live. Today is about each one of us taking the initiative to see all of our dreams come true—no matter how big or small.
Bob Stern is President, Sodexo Foundation & Group Chief International Counsel, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, North America, Sodexo.