Listening back on my interview with FEED co-founder and CEO Lauren Bush Lauren I was quite horrified to hear how many times I said the word “like”. I put it down to a gentle case of awe inducing nerves as it’s not every day you get to drink Chai with a women who is changing the face of social business and looking to end world hunger one bag at a time.
I can unabashedly say this was a “moment” for me. Lauren and I had been emailing for over a year and I wasn’t sure if I would actually get to meet her. This time I was only in New York for a few days and the morning of our interview she had to reschedule due to not feeling well (in hindsight I think a case of secret morning sickness). It wasn’t looking too promising but the next morning and still not feeling herself Lauren graciously met me at her local.
You started your career in fashion studying at Central St Martins. How did you go from fashion to becoming the CEO of a company whose mission is to solve world hunger?
Right around when I was studying at St Martins school of design and doing fashion internships here in New York, I was also starting to travel with the UN World Food Programme as a student in college. This exposed me to the realities of poverty and hunger that so many live with around the world and thinking of my own career where I initially thought there were two different paths I might take. Either humanitarian aid work with an organisation like the world food programme or literally work my way up and become a designer in New York. Actually I was studying abroad in Australia as a junior in college and that’s kind of where I had the light bulb moment of where I could combine giving back with design.
” FOR ME WORLD HUNGER OBVIOUSLY IS A MASSIVE ISSUE YET WHEN YOU BREAK IT DOWN BY MEAL AND CHILD IT BECOMES VERY TANGIBLE AND VERY MEANINGFUL SO THAT WAS THE ORIGINAL THINKING BEHIND FEED”
At the core of it I love the way through FEED we are able to educate, inspire and empower people to give back. Everybody wants to give back but they just might not have the time to vet all these organisations and FEED is this easy quick way as a consumer to do something good and you know exactly what it’s doing. I think that model is really effective.
Who is your voice of reason, that someone who keeps things in perspective so the magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish isn’t overwhelming?
I have many people. I guess first and foremost my husband (David Lauren), he was with me when it was only an idea and has seen the whole progression. He has been great at guiding me. I also have a fantastic board of advisors, friends that have gone out of there way to be helpful throughout the years.
On a personal level how are you affected by what you see when your on the ground doing aid work? How do you cope with this?
It’s not all sad. I studied anthropology in college and partly because of my experience with the World Food Programme I think that someone may live in poverty but they maybe perfectly happy. What really get’s to you is when you see little ones who aren’t given a proper start in life in terms of something as basic as food and nutrition. So that is very very hard to see. It’s not to say we should feel guilty about all we have , I think it is just important to be really aware of it. It can be easy to turn a blind eye to it.
“I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FULLY JUSTIFY THE DISPARITY IN THE WORLD BUT I THINK IT DOES STOP PEOPLE FROM EVEN WANTING TO CONFRONT IT AND I WOULD ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO DO SO. IT WILL CHANGE YOU AND THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT THINGS”
What have been some amazing milestones where you have gone, yes, this is where I am mean’t to be?
It isn’t often in the big ones, it’s in the smaller moments, you know just going on the trips. Most of our funds raised go to school feedings, so helping kids living in 65 of those countries around the world get a free nutritious school lunch, that is so rewarding and cool. Also on a product side its still so rewarding to see a stranger walk down the street with a FEED bag, so you get the kind of double whammy. I love the tangible impact which you can’t always see with every cause or every company.
“TO JUST GO AND PLAY WITH THE KIDS AND UNDERSTAND THEIR LIVES AND SEE THEIR HOUSES, I WOULD SAY FOR ME IT’S MORE THE LITTLE THINGS”
How did FEED come about?
The FEED community wanted to do more beyond making a purchase and we didn’t really have a way for them to do that. Making a donation or volunteering didn’t feel like the engagement they were wanting. That’s really where Feed Supper came from. It is so simple but it is also this joyful kind of return to simple moments that we really love and believe in.
Walk me through on how to host a FEED Supper?
Each year between Sept and Oct you can host a FEED Supper. Sign up to be a host which is really fun as you can make it whatever you want it to be. In your house, a BBQ outside, at a restaurant… it is really up to the host. You invite friends over to what is essentially a mini awareness fund raiser. You can ask your friends to donate a set amount that you feel comfortable with or as a host you set a meal goal and hopefully all your guests will help to reach this goal. You have your own fundraising link which allows you to actually see how many meals your FEED Supper is providing.
How has family impacted your path and journey?
I mean how does it not? Its hard to unweave family from what you do and who you are. I feel very blessed to have a really great family. At an early age I was lucky to travel, to see and understand the world but also I was encouraged to give back into public service in some way. My mother started a charity for homeless abused children so at an early age it was just a part of our life and my dad has always been an entrepreneur so I feel in some way I have combined a bit of what they both do, or did.
“I FEEL SO BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS. WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE IT WAS LIKE DAUNTING TO THINK I HAD TO CHOOSE ONE PATH AND I REALLY KIND OF FELT ONE PATH ALONE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN AS FULFILLING FOR ME. I WOULD HAVE NEEDED TO SCRATCH THE ITCH OF THE OTHER”
What’s the big dream?
The dream would be to figure this out and close up shop.
Photography Sybil Steele
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