Last month, Chris Noth presented a generous donation to Nourish Now—an organization that brings meals to families in need—on behalf of BV Wines. Parents spoke to Chris about how his work (both on-screen and on the hunger relief effort) impacts his life as a father to his 5-year-old son, Orion, from dealing with dinnertime pickiness to spending time together before Orion heads off to full-day school.
P: How does being a father impact your perspective on the issue of hunger relief?
CN: As a father your instinct kicks in and you want to make sure your kid is safe and well-fed. People don’t really know that 1 in 6 Americans don’t have access to food, that 17 million children are living in food-insecure households. Like me—I didn’t know that. It’s inconceivable to me that if you have a child that they would be food insecure.
P: Speaking of nutrition and healthy eating, your son is at that age when it can be difficult to feed your child, not due to lack of resources but due to pickiness. Is Orion a picky eater?
CN: All kids have their own peculiar tastes, I think. For instance, Orion doesn’t like spicy foods. He loves strawberries. He’s a big cheese eater, too, by the way. I was surprised at that. He loves cheese. Loves Parmesan cheese [laughs]. We’re just now getting him to eat meat; he wasn’t attracted to any kind of meat. But, then, he loves certain seafoods.
I try to trick him of course because he’s in that superhero-fascination age. I say, “You gotta eat this if you wanna be like Spiderman, kiddo. You gotta finish this up.” It’s an ongoing challenge. We’ve made vegetables kind of fun for him to eat. But we also use the old tricks of the trade. My son, for dessert, he doesn’t like chocolate—believe it or not—but he likes mochi. He’s crazy about mochi. So if he knows that he’s gonna get his two mochis at the end of the meal, he’s gonna clean that plate.
CN: She [my wife] is very good at that, at chopping vegetables up and blending them into things so he thinks he’s getting a French Fry but maybe it’s beets. I mean he does love those salty things that can be a little dangerous.
P: What about school lunches? What are you most excited or most nervous for with him going off to full day kindergarden?
CN: We just had our kindergarten meeting, so he starts next year. It’s a huge huge step. He had a very tight community at his preschool and so did we—with the teachers. It was just such a nourishing environment. I hate to say this, because it’s ridiculous, but it’s like from that [preschool] environment to kindergarten it’s kind of like he’s going to university in his eyes. He’s nervous. But, it’s still a really small community.
P: Since you split time between New York and L.A., when you and Orion get to see each other and you are in the same place, what are some of your favorite things to do together to celebrate that father-son bond?
CN: He’s into baseball. A Yankee game has got to be on the list. He’s obsessed with Derek Jeter; he’s very upset about his injury [chuckles]. You know, I love taking him, believe it or not, I want to see a couple of shows on Broadway. He digs that. He’s seen Spider-Man twice. I’m trying to see if Matilda is the show for him. Although, I desperately don’t want him to be an actor.
P: Why is that?
CN: There’s enough…entertainment isn’t one of the things we lack. Actors are not something we lack. Do we need another actor? G-d no.
P: Obviously charity work is very important to you. Is volunteerism and giving back something that you hope to encourage as Orion gets older?
CN: Thanksgiving we went to a local church that I found through the food bank. I think it would be a nice thing for him always to know about these things. He didn’t really quite get it, he was having fun, you know, asking to serve things, but he will get it. I think it’s important for every child to understand what’s around them, what the problems are and to be a part of the solution as they get older. I didn’t do it as a kid, frankly. I wasn’t aware of it. It is about awareness and then action.
P: Aside from volunteerism and helping out those around you, what would you say is the most important value you hope to instill in Orion?
CN: Generosity. I want him to be strong, but a gentle man. I want him to be able to see the difference between something that has real value and something that doesn’t.
One in two children will need food assistance in his lifetime.
That’s what Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, says in the upcoming documentary “A Place At The Table,” which I was fortunate to see at a screening last night. Directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, the film will come out in March, and you’ll hear lots more about it then, from us and many others. It depicts the stark and heartwrenching realities of the hunger epidemic affecting nearly 50 million people in the United States. Of that number, 17 million are children, an issue we explored in depth last year, both in an article and in a mini-documentary featuring a young mom in Philadelphia who, despite all of her hard work, can’t always adequately feed her small children.
As “A Place at the Table” deftly shows, we can solve the hunger crisis—but it’s not simply by donating to food pantries or working in soup kitchens. Charity is vital, of course, but it can’t be the answer, argue those who know this subject best. We have enough money in our country to fix this problem, so we have to change our laws to ensure that proper funding goes to the most productive nutrition and assistance programs. And this is where we can all make a significant impact.
A very encouraging program called Food Policy Action just launched, and it provides a scorecard for politicians based on how they vote on food and nutrition legislation. Sign up for notifications here so you can find out when your own representative is about to vote on an issue—and then call that rep and tell him or her that you’re watching how he/she votes, and keeping it in mind when it’s time for re-election. Lori Silverbush said that lawmakers have confessed to changing their vote on a particular issue after as few as six calls from constituents, which is proof that your voice matters. Please use it—it’s never been made easier to stay informed and create change.
Of course, if you want to go the charitable route, there are many great ways to do it. One is to support this year’s Hungerthon. Created by WhyHunger, which sponsors innovative community-based hunger organizations nationwide, Hungerthon is a month-long radio event that raises awareness and funding to help end hunger. A portion of this is through a charity auction. Some of the coolest items you can bid on include a signed guitar from Taylor Swift and another from Carrie Underwood. Admittedly these are pricey items, so you might consider donating $50 and getting an awesome and exclusive Bruce Springsteen t-shirt featuring an outtake from the “Born To Run” photo shoot.
If your family is affected by hunger, please check out our list of resources that can help.
We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of children in third world countries who are barely surviving due to a lack of food. We all know that this tragic reality exists, but did you know that there are 16 million children living here in America who are battling hunger?
We at Parents take this issue very seriously. We recently ran a report on what hunger looks like in America and interviewed a mom who experienced it firsthand.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill is teaming up with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to bring 1 million meals to children in need. They invited us and other bloggers to write about their favorite Italian recipe and for every post they will donate $50 to No Kid Hungry, which will provide up to 500 meals for children in need.
Here’s what you can do to help.
Throughout the entire month of September, Macaroni Grill diners can donate $2 to No Kid Hungry and receive $5 off their next visit. A $2 donation could provide up to 20 meals.
Every time a fan shares a photo from the Mac Grill Facebook Gallery, Macaroni Grill will help No Kid Hungry provide a child with a meal.
Tweet or Instagram a photo of your Macaroni Grill experience with the tag #macgrillgive and Macaroni Grill will provide a child with a meal.
Make It 1. Coat a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In a large microwave-safe bowl stir together pasta sauce and water. Cover bowl with waxed paper and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together ricotta cheese and carrot; set aside.
2. Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture in the bottom of prepared slow cooker. Break half of the noodles to fit the bottom of the slow cooker and arrange over the sauce in the slow cooker. Spoon mounds of half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the layers. Top with remaining noodles, breaking to fit, remaining ricotta mixture, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Spoon remaining sauce over and top with remaining mozzarella.
3. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 3 hours (noodles should be tender). Remove crockpot from liner and let stand covered for 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
Stovetop Method: Prepare as above, except increase noodles to 8 and layer ingredients in a large deep skillet. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.
Report: 1 in 5 U.S. Children at Risk of Hunger
The nonprofit Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks around the United States, reports one in five children are at risk of hunger. For children in African-American or Latino households, it’s closer to one in three.
Consumer Group Releases Annual ‘Trouble in Toyland’ Report
Just a few days before Black Friday signals the beginning of holiday shopping fury, the U.S. Public Interest Group has released its 26th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, alerting consumers to the dangers and toxins that can still be found in children’s toys.
Parents of Flour Tots in Video: That Mess Was Real
“Kids Trash Home With Flour in Minutes” has become a viral sensation, with some two million views on YouTube in less than a week. But the video — showing Vince and Mary Napoli’s 3-year-old and 16-month old boys spreading flour willy-nilly all over the family living room — has elicited cries of hoax.
This Sunday, October 9, my family and I will be watching “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” a one-hour Sesame Street special designed to raise awareness about hunger in the United States and its impact on children. (Click on the screen to watch a behind-the-scenes video.) This is a topic we pay close attention to at Parents (see our story and the accompanying mini-documentary), and it’s one that the folks at Sesame Street have been addressing for quite some time. They have an initiative called Food For Thought which offers resources that provide assistance, powerful videos of families affected by hunger, and much more. This primetime special is the latest step, made possible by funding from Walmart. It’s hosted by Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley and features a new Muppet named Lily, who sometimes needs the services of a food pantry. The special also features four families who candidly share their own experiences in needing help getting enough to eat; they are the heart of “Growing Hope Against Hunger” and their stories will move you.
Every family with children as young as preschool-age can benefit from watching. Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for outreach and educational practices at Sesame Workshop, told me that the special has two important missions: to continue to provide hope and strategies to those experiencing food insecurity, and to teach those who aren’t affected that they can play a role and help others. The goal is to jumpstart a meaningful conversation, whether it begins with “This is happening to our family, and we’re not alone” or “This is happening to families in our community, and there’s something we can do to help.” Families who don’t have enough to eat feel very isolated, she said. I especially liked what Dr. Betancourt said about the very act of talking about the problem: “It allows you to move forward.”
I’ll be honest: Hunger is not an issue I’ve ever explained to my daughters, who are 6 and 3. As a parent, I’m so glad to have a show like this to introduce the subject in a clear, compassionate way and to talk about how we can make a difference. Click here to find out when and on what channel the show will air in your area.
Okay, I have to end by showing this picture of me and a certain lovable, furry monster. I got to meet him over the summer when I visited the set of Sesame Street (career highlight!) to watch the filming of “Growing Hope Against Hunger.”
Last week I wrote about our story in the July issue called The Hungry Home, which is about the hunger crisis affecting 18 million Americans. In it, we talk about the importance of donating food (and money) to pantries–and not just any food, but the stuff you’d want your own family to eat. In the video we created to accompany the story, a mom named Tangela describes how her pantry is often filled with castoffs such as dented cans and even items simply labeled “FOOD.” (??)
I got an email over the weekend about a program that connects families with something else they need: socks. I’d never thought about socks as a need, and I guess I’m not alone: Socks are among the least-donated items of clothing. In response, the company No Nonsense has created a program called Socks for America. Over the next year, working with K.I.D.S. (Kids In Distressed Situations), they’ll donate 1 million pairs of socks to people in need.
You can get that number higher than 1 million. Become a fan of No Nonsense on Facebook or purchase a pair of specially-marked socks, and another pair of socks will be donated.
In our July issue we have a story about hunger in the U.S. It’s a true crisis—one in four children in this country are considered food-insecure, meaning they live in a home that has difficulty providing food for all its members. We profiled two such families in our story. One is in California: The mom, Amy, works part time, and dad Otis (who has a master’s degree) has been underemployed for the past few years; they need to rely on their local food pantry to help feed their two children, ages 3 and 7. The other family is in Philadelphia: Tangela is a single mom of two children, 2 and 3, and she also helps support her teenage siblings. She works full-time, receives food stamps, and still finds herself coming up short—and, along with the rest of her family, often hungry—every month. (You can meet Tangela in this short video, which I hope you’ll watch.)
Summer is a particularly rough time for many families struggling with hunger, because children don’t get the free or low-cost breakfasts and lunches they get during the school year. Federally funded summer food programs exist, but they’re often underutilized. If you need these services or want to implement them in your community, you can ask your school or local rec center whether it’s participating in these federal programs. Or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. Feeding America, the country’s largest network of food pantries, offers more information about summer programs and provides a phone number to get more details on putting them in place. You can also offer to help organize volunteers to distribute food at parks and playgrounds
If there’s anything positive to say about this distressing topic, it’s that help is available—as are many opportunities to assist others. We’re hoping that our story will give families an opportunity to make a difference, and feel a difference.