Lauren Bush Lauren has not one but two famous last names — but she isn’t riding her coattails. The model and designer (who married Ralph Lauren's son David in 2011) is the founder of the FEED Foundation, maker of those ubiquitous canvas bags whose earnings go to fight hunger. On Sept. 22, Bush Lauren will for the second time lace up her sneakers for the RUN10FEED10 10K with Women’s Health magazine, which will donate 10 meals to hungry New Yorkers for every person registered. We spoke with Bush Lauren about her mission.
For people who don’t run often, a 10K sounds like quite a challenge.
It was [my first] last year and I was equally as nervous. But it’s not as bad as you would think. I just started ramping up my running. I think before the race I maybe did about a 5.5-mile run but didn’t do a full 10K until the actual 10K. It’s a great accomplishment.
How is this year different from last?
Last year was really such a fun and amazing event. In New York at least they literally close down the West Side Highway early in the morning. It’s so cool. I live near the West Side so it’s kind of fun. It’s so fun and so well produced. You really do feel a sense of accomplishment with a 10K. And overall we were able to raise a million meals — we gave a million meals to families around America. That was huge. And we want to aim to at least get 2 million meals this year.
How does the money reach the hungry?
Within the cost of the registration fee is the cost to run, [and] it’s also the donation of 10 meals. The FEED foundation finds local partners: local food banks and soup kitchens. And we give grant money. So you are essentially running to give meals within the city you live in and are running in. Whether you just want to register and run that’s totally fine, but our hope is that people will go onto Crowdrise, a really easy, fun, crowd fundraising site, and fundraise even further. The only way we will be able to get to that million meal goal is if people go that extra step and really raise money beyond from family and friends.
To many of us, hunger may seem like just a problem in foreign countries. But why is local hunger important?
Fifty million Americans are food insecure, which is pretty shocking. [That means] at some point throughout the year they’re relying on food stamps, local soup kitchens and food banks to get by. That can be maybe once a month. That can be every week. That can be once a year. Unfortunately, so many Americans are the working poor. They’re working many multiple jobs but still just can’t make ends meet. So it’s very necessary that there is a wonderful network of food banks throughout the country, mainly under the umbrella of Feeding America, which is the largest domestic hunger organization. And the food banks, 50 million Americans are relying on them, which is huge. So by doing the RUN10FEED10 we’re essentially just supporting something that’s so essential for humans: food and nutrition.
Are we closer to solving the problem of hunger?
This is such a big question. I’ve seen many things that are hopeful and other things that aren’t hopeful. But I do think there has to be the political will of government really wanting to solve it. I think a lot of things need to happen to “solve” hunger in America and it’s kind of shocking because I think that a lot of people don’t even know hunger actually exists in America. So the other thing that I’m really excited about with this run is the awareness we are able to raise — that this is a big issue, here in your backyard. Whether it’s through the run or whether it’s through donating or whether it’s even volunteering locally, there is so much we can all do to help be part of that cause.
What are you hoping for on the political level?
Oh jeez. I took a tour recently around the country and visited different states and different cities and visited food banks. Through that experience I really saw firsthand the faces and the stories behind that 50 million statistic. … Recently up for debate is how much the government should be assisting those who need that extra assistance with food stamps. There are programs like SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] in Congress that are wholly in the government’s control in terms of how much money they budget and allocate for food stamps or for school lunch programs. The government has a huge role to play in terms of prioritizing hunger.
What can the non-politicians like us do?
I think races like this, not to be overly idealistic, but it’s showing government that people care about hunger in America. And if they don’t know that people care then they’re not gonna take action. So it does take us lending not only our money and time and energy but speaking up and saying that this is something I now know about and care about and really think we could change.