FEED founder and CEO Lauren Bush Lauren this week shared how she turned a passion project into a massive philanthropic brand at the International Quality of Life Awards Distinguished Lecture hosted by the College of Human Sciences.
Lauren discussed combining your talents with paying it forward to make the world a better place. She started FEED in 2007, after seeing firsthand the impact of global hunger during her travels with the United Nations World Food Programme. What she saw stuck with her and inspired her to create a practical way in which everyone could be involved in the fight against hunger.
“We are a social business. When I founded FEED almost fifteen years ago, that was not a known term,” Lauren said. “It’s wonderful that now, so many people, especially young people, are starting businesses not only to make money or support themselves or have a career, but also to make the world a better place. Businesses have stepped up, and now our model is no longer a novelty, which is awesome.”
FEED produces handbags, home goods, and accessories, and forwards proceeds from sales to providing meals through on-the-ground partners across the globe. On the FEED website, each product description indicates how many meals can be provided with a purchase.
In 2017, the College of Human Sciences honored Lauren as the IQLA laureate for her work to end hunger. During the lecture, Lauren reflected on how FEED has grown to have provided nearly 120 million meals at the time of the presentation and how engagement of solution-oriented consumers benefits the youth of the world.
“Hunger, unlike a lot of other extremely daunting world issues that we face, is one we know how to solve. We don’t need a cure. The cure is food. The cure is nutrition. Ultimately, it’s about engaging people in this way to give back, empower them to help give meals,” Lauren said. “Hunger is not only a disparity in food, it’s really a disparity in opportunity. And to me, fighting hunger is also fighting that disparity in opportunity, ensuring kids, no matter where they’re born, have the opportunity to live into their full human potential and into their dreams.”
Lauren also shared anecdotes of children she’s met through her work, how COVID-19 has driven food insecurity rates around the world, and how the WFP’s school feeding program has increased the number of children getting an education.
Author and journalist Roger Thurow moderated the lecture. A former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and a senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Thurow is noted for his writing about the politics and the human impact of world hunger.
Thurow first met Lauren shortly after she started FEED. He still has the prototype bag, which is emblazoned with the number one to signify that the purchase bought one meal for one child every day for one year.
“Outrage and inspire – for Lauren, that’s her mission. Through FEED, Lauren has been able to build a renowned lifestyle brand that combines her two passions: fashion design and making a profound difference in the world by helping to conquer hunger. This would seem to be an unlikely match, design and hunger, the beautiful and the ugly, but Lauren has been this bridge in bringing in people in the fight against hunger,” Thurow said. “We know what to do. We need the work of everybody. You’re all the one. It’s the power of one and Lauren shows the difference that one person can make.”
Thurow, who serves the College of Human Sciences as a scholar in residence, will present The Pandemic and Food Insecurity: the Ripple Effect during the Mildred Brown Davis College of Human Sciences Lectureship on Tuesday, April 6 at 2 p.m. at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center auditorium. Global Studies student and past Auburn University Student Government Association president Ada Ruth Huntley will join Thurow for the presentation. The event is free and open to the public with limited seating.
College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard addressed students following Lauren’s discussion and announced the Spirit of IQLA Scholarship. Gifts to the 2020 International Quality of Life Awards, which were held virtually in December and honored the Heroes of COVID-19, helped endow the scholarship.
“Whether you’re in apparel design, global studies or any other major for that matter, I hope you see what a difference you can make when your skill set combines with your passion as Lauren is living out so powerfully,” Hubbard said. “We are thrilled to introduce the Spirit of IQLA endowed scholarship. This will be awarded annually, beginning next year, to a student in the College of Human Sciences exhibiting a passion in their studies to impact individual, family and community. Thank you to all who helped establish this scholarship, and we look forward to awarding it to a deserving student during the next scholarship cycle.”
Lauren joined the event virtually, and guests had the option to attend limited in-person seating or virtually via Zoom. The in-person section was monitored closely to follow Auburn’s A Healthier U guidelines while providing opportunity for a question-and-answer portion of the lecture. To purchase a handbag or other product and provide meals to schoolchildren through FEED, visit feedprojects.com.