The National Governors Association met this weekend to discuss child hunger, and restaurateur and Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson was on hand to motivate governors and their significant others to take action for our nation's kids and restaurants alike.
While Acheson—a partner of the Share Our Strength campaign No Kid Hungry, and founder of food education program Seed Life Skills—says ending child hunger is an obvious important bipartisan issue, it's also a practical matter for restaurants across the nation who hope to one day hire young adults who value good, nutritious food.
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"From an industry standpoint, it is critical for us to be raising a great generation so we have viable employees in 20 years—people who are aware of food and aware of nutrition and aware of what's going on a plate and how it matters to their bodies and how it impacts their success in this world," he told Food & Wine after he spoke at the National Governors Association's winter meeting, where Acheson encouraged lawmakers to support school and government-sponsored programs to combat child hunger by encouraging healthful, easily accessible meals.
"If we're not feeding kids healthy food by [a young age], there's no chance we'll be able to put a great team in the field later on," Acheson said.
Along with No Kid Hungry, Acheson works to educate communities about what food programs—such as summer meal programs—are available, as well as how to make more healthful meals, in schools and at home, that children will enjoy.
"When we make sure that a ham and cheese sandwich with some carrots next to it and some wheat berries is a healthy lunch for kids, we have made an amazing change," he said. "If we can make that the norm, then we are winning beyond belief."
Of course, Acheson's activism isn't all about educating a generation of chefs ready to helm his many restaurants. Acheson told us he was drawn to help combat childhood hunger so that he can use his (famous) voice to raise awareness for a problem that affects 13 million U.S. kids.
"I'm just one guy, and I'm just one guy who's trying with absolutely no sense of selfishness or ego to just do what I can to make other lives better," he said. "And we're trying to do it with big smiles on our faces, bringing everybody together to realize the way we make this country better, the way we truly make America great again is by empowering a generation who can say let's do this, we got this."
People who want to follow his lead can educate themselves about the programs available in their schools and communities and volunteer their time, Acheson suggests, or call their governor's office to ask for more aid. "The way we get involved and the way we fight malaise within the country is that we take small steps and we choose to be more involved each week," he says. "Nobody is asking that the sky clears tomorrow. We have to fight for this."