Over the past five years, I've been incredibly fortunate to enjoy many successes as an entrepreneur with my first startup, ZinePak. On a handful of occasions I have been invited to give TEDx presentations, which are independently-organized events sanctioned by TED, the organization whose tagline is "Ideas Worth Spreading." I politely declined each invitation to speak on issues like entrepreneurship among females or the changing landscape of the music industry. I just didn't feel like the world was waiting with bated breath for one more person to address these issues.
However, when my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas, invited me to join their TEDx and speak on the theme "Ideas Whose Time Has Come," I accepted without hesitation. Why? Because I think everyone can agree that an America where no child, senior or person goes hungry is an idea whose time is long overdue.
In preparing my 20-minute keynote for the event, I learned even more about the important issue of hunger in America. Even more disappointing than the fact that 1 in 7 Americas relies on food banks each year, I learned that 1 in 5 in my home state of Arkansas is faced with this reality. I was also forced to confront the fact that this problem isn't an issue in other developed countries. Just look at this graph, from a 2014 survey that compared the number of citizens in countries across the world who couldn't afford food.
It's obvious that the United States is falling way behind its peers. At almost 15%, our rate of hunger is three times that of countries like Australia, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and other developed nations.
I had long known that 46 million Americas each year depend on food banks. But, it wasn't until I started doing the math that I realized that 46 million is equal to the entire population of 24 states (the ones in green). Think about it: the entire population of nearly half the states in our nation is the number of food-insecure Americans.
I'm grateful that my school gave me the platform to speak about something so important to me, and discuss the issue that gave rise to the founding of Per Diems Against Poverty. When the video of my speech is available online, I will share it here. In the mean time, here are six easy ways that anyone can help end the issue afflicting 1 in 7 Americans: