Guest editor Lauren Bush Lauren shares how she is turning fashion into philanthropy...
What was the turning point when you realized you could take your passion for philanthropy and make it a business?
FEED was an accidental business. I initially conceptualized the first FEED bag as a fundraising and awareness-raising tool for the WFP. When they were unable to sell the bags themselves, I started FEED Projects as a for-profit, social business. Now, having been able to give nearly 60 million school meals globally through the sale of FEED products over the past six years, I believe that this model is the most effective and sustainable way to continuously and impactfully give back.
Why did you make it your life purpose to fight world hunger?
I was inspired after traveling internationally with the UN World Food Program (WFP)and seeing first-hand the issues of poverty and hunger that affect so many. Once you see that level of human suffering, I think it is impossible not to want to help. Food is a basic human need and right, so I believe it is our responsibility to do what we can to make sure everyone has access to the food and nutrition they need.
What’s the biggest success since launching your business?
I consider FEED’s biggest success to be our impact and how we’ve educated others, whether consumers or partners, on the impact they can make. Our first partnership with Whole Foods enabled us to donate enough meals to feed all of the children in WFP-sponsored schools in Rwanda for an entire year. This process of raising awareness has resulted in terrific partnerships with companies like Pottery Barn, Clarins, Godiva, Disney, TOMS and now Rachel Roy, and support from the many customers who have used their purchasing power to make a difference and support the FEED cause by buying FEED products.
What are your tips on how to become involved in philanthropy?
The key is to become engaged in a specific issue. There is much to be done and it is really about just taking that first step. You do not have to be rich or powerful to engage in philanthropy. It is up to all of us to do what we can to make the world a better place. And I have found that people (including myself) are most successful and impactful with philanthropy when they are engaging their passions and talents. I love design and entrepreneurship, so when I was able to combine both of those things with the desire to give back and feed people around the world, it was a winning combination that has been and remains to be extremely rewarding.
How has FEED evolved over the years?
FEED has evolved greatly since we began but has always stayed true to our mission of “Creating Good Products That Help FEED the World.” We are now able to work with artisan groups around the world in Guatemala, Kenya, Liberia, Colombia, and India. The fact that we have been able to provide nearly 60 million school meals globally and vitamin supplements to over 3.5 million children around the world is certainly a point of pride for me and all ofTeam FEED.
FEED projects is considered a social business. What is a social business and how does it work?
FEED is considered a ‘social business’ because the concept of giving back and helping people is engrained into the core of our business.
How do you research new projects and choose who to partner with?
FEED works with organizations on the ground that are closest to the end recipients and specialize in this kind of activity. We rely on their knowledge and distribution systems on the ground to make sure that the food is getting to the right place. I take at least one trip a yearto visit these programs and see how they are doing.