When cousins Jennifer Barker and Brittany Hodak were growing up in rural Oklahoma, they always vowed to work together one day on something great. Although they discussed many business ideas over the years (the earliest being a bakery, at ages 6 and 7!), nothing felt right. Then, in late 2014, while Brittany was filming an episode of the hit TV show Shark Tank, the idea for Per Diems Against Poverty was sparked when she got a phone call from a producer. “Can you run down to the production office? I forgot to give you your per diems for the past few days,” he said. Brittany hadn’t been expecting the per diem, and although happy to be receiving the almost $200 in cash, she was struck by a few thoughts. First, $65 per day seemed generous for one person’s meals. Second, most people who are fortunate enough to receive per diems (including professional actors, athletes, and business executives) don’t count on the non-taxable per diems to be able to afford their meals; they would be buying lunch and dinner with or without the mandated payments. Third, $65 per day could do a lot of good to the almost 20% of Americans who suffer from food insecurity.
These thoughts were still fresh on Brittany’s mind when she and Jennifer were together for Thanksgiving a few weeks later. Jennifer shared Brittany’s passion for finding a way to easily and effectively redistribute these funds, already earmarked for food, to people whose needs are greater than those of the original recipient. After a quick conversation, the pair agreed this was the battle they had been preparing to fight together:
Fighting for the day when no American goes hungry.
Per Diems Against Poverty reallocates donated per diems from individuals and corporations to Americans struggling with food insecurity. In order to do as much good as possible, we partnered with Feeding America shortly after our incorporation in May 2015. Feeding America serves 46.5 million Americans in need, leading the fight against hunger in communities nationwide. Due to their vast resources, Feeding America can distribute nutritionally-balanced meals for as little as ten cents. The average per diem in the United States is $58.50--that’s enough to distribute almost 600 meals to Americans in need!
Jennifer and Brittany’s modest upbringing, including grandparents whose memories from the Great Depression and America’s Dust Bowl period were vividly engrained, helped inform Per Diems Against Poverty’s Core Values, particularly those of Frugality and Integrity. All administrative and operational costs are covered by private donations from generous individuals who share our belief that together we can end hunger in America, which means