Former Dancing with the Stars co-host and Entertainment Tonight correspondent, Samantha Harris, is using her celebrity for a great cause. The mom-of-two is the official spokesperson for Fruit for All, the summertime hunger relief program sponsored by Juicy Juice and Feeding America.
The two-time Emmy-nominated TV host, mom and anti-hunger advocate opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about hunger in America, stating, “1 in 5 children are at risk of hunger every day.” She goes on to say, “There’s 200 billion pounds of food that go to waste every year in America,” adding, “we have all the food necessary to feed our hungry, it is just a matter of access, equity, and distribution.” Samantha goes on to talk about teaching her daughters Josselyn, 4 1/2, and Hillary, 16 months, about giving back and helping at risk families.
CBS: Tell us all about the Fruit for All project, the summertime hunger relief program sponsored by Juicy Juice and Feeding America.
SH: “I have teamed up with Juicy Juice and Feeding America to encourage families and communities to participate in the Fruit for All project, which launched on June 1st and runs until August 31st. It’s such an incredible program because Juicy Juice will provide up to 35 million pieces of fruit to children and families in need.
I think a lot of us here in America think of hunger as a third world issue. But unfortunately, not only are millions of adults affected by hunger in America, but more than 16 million children are food insecure. That’s 1 in 5 children are at risk of hunger every day.
The summer months are an even more dangerous time for an increased risk because there are no school lunch programs, which provide free lunches to more than 21 million children. In the summertime, only 2 million people actually take part in the summer lunch programs. So there’s obviously a large disparity in that number, and the summer is that much more desperate of a time for kids who are hungry and malnourished.
As a mom, the thought of not being able to provide food to your family is a horrifying thought. But on top of that, I can’t imagine not being able to put healthy foods like whole fruit on the table. I make sure my daughters get fruit every single day. I offer it with every meal and every snack to make sure they get a great assortment of fruit. A lot of children don’t have that opportunity. So the Fruit for All program is going to put 35 million pieces of fruit into their mouths.
And it’s really easy to get involved. I love to volunteer at a local food bank and I brought my 4 1/2-year-old with me. One of the great things of going to a food bank, is you’re able to meet some families using the donated food. It’s a feel-good thing. For selfish reasons, I like to go and see how I’m helping people, with that person-to-person contact. And just knowing that these parents are able to go home and cook some meals for their kids and put fruits and vegetables on the table is just fantastic.
Obviously there are a lot of people who don’t have time to volunteer, so all they have to do is buy a Juicy Juice product because for every Juicy Juice purchase, a piece of fruit goes to those in need. You can also go to fruitforallproject.com. There are games and puzzles and lots of fun stuff for kids to do that will generate even more fruit donations for kids families in need. And the Juicy Juice Facebook page is another way to get involved.”
CBS: There’s got to be a better way to feed kids at risk! Research says there is enough food.
SH: “Exactly. There’s 200 billion pounds of food that go to waste every year in America. Six billion of that is produce. So we have all the food necessary to feed our hungry, it is just a matter of access, equity, and distribution. And that’s where Juicy Juice comes into play here. Juicy Juice is going to help with the cultivation and the transportation of all that fruit.
People need to go to the farms and pick it from the trees. Some farms have so much over-production, that they can’t possibly even distribute it and sell it to the various outlets that would purchase the food, and so on. In this case, Juicy Juice will do the agricultural portion of that to cultivate the fruit, and then transport it.
In developing nations there are issues of not having enough food. Here in America, there is an over-abundance of food, billions of pounds of food that goes to waste….and it’s a matter of just getting it to the people.”
CBS: Tell us about taking Josselyn to the food bank warehouse. How was that experience for her?
SH: “The first time I took her is when she was 3. She was so cute and good about her role. Each food bank operates different from the next. The first one I brought her to, we just sorted the boxes and the food that came in. So I gave her a big box and she needed to put it in the proper bins. It was a great activity for her – it kept her busy and engaged. She’s a great organizer and she loves to do that sort of thing at home – she’ll line up her dolls and her toys, so I knew it would be a great activity for her.
And fast forward to a year-and-a-half later, and I brought her to a different food bank where we got to interact with a lot of the families in need. She brought books and toys for the waiting area, so that the kids waiting for their parents picking up food had something to keep them occupied and they could take home something new as well.
Sometimes she’ll go around her room and playroom and find some toys she hasn’t played with in a long time to also donate. I like that we’ve started her on the right path to understand what it is to give back. But also, having the broader knowledge that there are kids out there not as lucky as she is. There are kids that don’t have an over-abundance of food in the refrigerator to be picky about.”
CBS: What’s your best advice to parents who want to talk to their young kids about hunger and poverty issues?
SH: “I think it’s very easy to understand that there are other little boys and girls who don’t have food to eat. They are hungry, and they want to be able to eat the food that you’re eating.
One thing that helped is a bedtime story that I just made up and started to tell her over the holidays. Her preschool had a food drive and so I wanted to explain to her what that was all about and I just made up a little story. I tried to make it personal. I started telling a story about a little girl named Megan who has a little brother and sister, a mommy and a daddy, and they lived in a home with just 2 bedrooms and they have to share rooms. And they have one bathroom that they all share. They don’t have enough food to eat every day, and they need help. I think putting it into context like that in a story makes it more relatable for her.
She loves it and continues to request it every night. And she’s actually asked for a playdate with Megan!”
CBS: How’s Hillary doing?
SH: “She’s fantastic! She’s talking up a storm. I think having an older sibling makes her that much more motivated to run, jump and play. She’s a daredevil – it scares the living daylights out of me! We’ve just started going swimming and she’ll literally just jump in head-first all the way under the water. I’m constantly having to grab her up from the water. I have to keep a very tight hold on her in the pool!
We go to gymnastics with my older daughter and the little one is hanging off the side of the bar and swinging and picking up her legs while giggling and having a great time.
Hillary has a lot of energy and she’s very verbal. She has more words than I think I did until the age of 5!”
Photos: Courtesy of Samantha Harris