National Press Club

Jeff Bridges Says Campaign to End Hunger is His Most Significant Act

November 11, 2010

Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges

Photo/Image: Brian Mosley

Working to end hunger "is the most significant thing I have done," an emotional Jeff Bridges told a sold-out NPC luncheon audience Nov. 10 as he helped kick off a national campaign to end childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. The Oscar-winning actor, still sporting the long hair and beard from his role as gritty country-Western singer Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart," choked up when asked what has been his biggest challenge in being a famous person.

"We can do this...come on, this is our country," said Bridges, a long-time advocate of feeding the poor. He was joined by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the nation's first governor to commit to ending childhood hunger in his state in five years. A head table guest of Bridges, O'Malley said he would monitor every two weeks the number of children in Maryland added to programs aimed at feeding children.

Bridges praised as "a wonderful thing" President Obama's pledge to end childhood hunger by expanding participation in existing assistance efforts such as Food Stamps and school lunch programs. He said he plans to produce a documentary featuring successful efforts by schools such as the Elsie Stokes Charter School in Northeast Washington to improve childhood nutrition. By growing vegetables and buying and preparing fresh food, the program at Stokes is proving that good food "doesn't cost any more" than processed foods.

Bill Shore, founder and executive director of the anti-hunger Share Our Strength organization, joined Bridges and said some $1 billion in federal funding is available to states that broaden their participation in food programs for children. Bridges said participation is often hindered by red tape and the shame and embarrassment many parents feel about accepting assistance. He called hunger and obesity "two sides of the same coin" because youngsters often develop a taste for junk food because they are not exposed to healthy alternatives.

Bridges met with top Obama administration officials in a renewed effort to reach some 17 million children in the U.S. who live in "food insecure homes." "Poverty is a very complicated issue," said Bridges, "but feeding children (though expansion of existing programs) is not." He said only half of the children eligible for free or subsidized school lunch programs participate. The actor said the nation plays a heavy price for inadequate childhood nutrition because hungry children do not learn and grow to their full potential. He said the Nov. 2 election "showed there are many things we disagree on, but ending childhood hunger is not one of them." He called on Congress to fully fund a pending child nutrition bill.

He praised his parents and said his father Lloyd loved acting and encouraged him and his brother to become actors. "He was a joyous guy in acting and in life," he said. He said one remake he would like to do would be "Sea Hunt," the adventure series his father starred in from 1958-61. he said one way his marriage has survived for 33 years is sitting down with his wife when they have issues and letting each person express their feelings. Asked for words to live by, Bridges said "participate."

-- Ken Dalecki, kdalecki@hotmail.com