“Grassroots” is a favorite term of WhyHunger, a New York-based nonprofit addressing hunger and poverty in the United States, and worldwide. The organization supports over 8,000 community-based projects that are helping to create “a just food system that provides universal access to nutritious and affordable food.”
WhyHunger was founded in 1975 by musicians Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres in response to rampant hunger in Africa, and elsewhere. The friends decided that their new charity would need to go beyond providing emergency food aid if it were to create a just and sustainable food system. Chapin and Ayres became dedicated to digging deep to the roots of poverty in order to find long-term solutions to the global problem of hunger.
In an open letter, co-founder and current Executive Director Bill Ayres defines WhyHunger’s global mission as “[helping] people to help themselves through food production, job-training programs, nutrition education, community economic development, healthcare, youth programming, leadership development and more.”
WhyHunger brings much-needed publicity and funding to small, community-based organizations that are working hard to chip away at hunger in their communities. This feat is accomplished through WhyHunger’s various programs, including Artists Against Hunger & Poverty.
AAH&P partners with accomplished and rising musical artists to raise funds for outstanding local projects that are fighting hunger. So far, the campaign has funneled close to 10 million dollars into grassroots initiatives.
Some of the artists involved with AAH&P and WhyHunger include Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Chicago, Brandi Carlile and O.A.R., among many others. WhyHunger connects the management of the different artists to organizations that focus on hunger and poverty in towns near their tour stops. The artists then set aside time during their concerts to speak about the different nonprofits, and to collect donations. Typically the organizations are given the best tickets in the house to auction off, and the artists generally donate to the cause, as well.
“I’ve always said that working with WhyHunger is the perfect antidote to dealing with the whims and challenges of the music industry,” says Jen Chapin, an artist-supporter and longtime board member of WhyHunger. “In the food justice movement, you always get to interact with inspired and intelligent people who are driven by a sense of mission, which is — ahem — not always the case in the music biz.”
Artists Against Hunger & Poverty is a strategic program that utilizes the existing charisma surrounding musical artists to draw in fans and mobilize support for small-scale nonprofits that would otherwise not have access to such large audiences.
WhyHunger has received a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. The nonprofit places a great emphasis on keeping profits at the grassroots level, in community-based nonprofits that are helping eradicate hunger and poverty, person-by-person.