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Locally-based charity organizations have big goals and limited resources. One works through reservations to improve dietary health of Native Americans. Another focuses on shelters for battered women and their children. Others are oriented toward urban school systems and getting nutritious food to children who can’t afford it.
Such organizations work directly with the people who need it, and could make a bigger impact, but they struggle to find the publicity they need to raise significant funds. Perhaps they don’t have the connections to get resources where they’re needed.
The national nonprofit WhyHunger fills that need. WhyHunger connects people to nutritious food and empowers communities by supporting sustainable grassroots solutions.
WhyHunger is the brainchild of longtime New York City radio DJ Bill Ayres and the late songwriter Harry Chapin. One of their most familiar programs is their annual radiobroadcasted Hungerthon, which raised over $800,000 in 2011, and has raised millions over the past three decades.
Now, to reach younger music fans, the growing organization has prioritized its Artists Against Hunger & Poverty partnerships with seasoned artists and rising independent acts as well. Through ticket sales, meet and greets, and food donations, musicians raise funds for local relief organizations.
Perhaps most importantly, partnering musicians speak about WhyHunger during their performances. They bring to attention the millions who go hungry every day, and those who have already been helped by WhyHunger and its grassroots partners. And with musicians on board like Jackson Browne, Marc Broussard, Yoko Ono, Carlos Santana, and longtime supporter Bruce Springsteen, the program has spread nationwide.
“Take Bruce Springsteen,” Ayres says, explaining a typical artist partnership. “We’ll connect his management with a couple hunger or poverty organizations in every town he goes to,” says Ayres. “From the stage, Springsteen explains those local nonprofits and what they do for the community, then donations are collected. Sometimes those local organizations can auction or sell a few excellent tickets to the concert. On top of that, Springsteen himself often gives a donation.” Ayres estimates that WhyHunger’s Artists Against Hunger & Poverty campaigns have funneled 9 or 10 million dollars into grassroots organizations.
WhyHunger doesn’t keep any of the money from such donations, Ayres says, but that it all goes into community-based nonprofits. Bruce Springsteen has supported over 130 organizations while on tour, and WhyHunger has reached out to 8500 groups nationwide either by providing food, resources, publicity, or by intentionally connecting organizations with partner organizations.
“We’re here to empower the grassroots,” Ayres says. “We always have been since we started in 1975. Whether they’re hunger or poverty organizations, these people are the ones making powerful things happen, helping people get fed and get out of poverty.”
Ayres says Artists Against Hunger & Poverty focuses on maintaining its relationships with traditional artists as well as developing new relationships with less famous musicians, from folk songwriters to rock performers to indie bands. For more information on how to donate or get involved, visit whyhunger.org.