Courtesy DKNY; Inset: Landov
Did you know it only costs 25 cents to provide a child in a developing country with a school lunch? Think about it: your morning cup of coffee could feed 12. Your lunchtime sandwich? Maybe 24 or 25.
It’s that kind of thinking that helped Lauren Bush Lauren found FEED, her highly successful, five-year-old organization that since its inception in 2007, has given $6 million to the hungry worldwide. And with its newest project — a collaboration with DKNY — the philanthropist hopes to seriously increase that number.
“To partner with DKNY and do it in a fun and fashionable way is great for us,” Lauren told reporters over breakfast at Bloomingdale’s in New York last week. “The goal of designing this was to match the DKNY aesthetic, which is black and city and working girl, with the FEED aesthetic, which is more rugged, and kind of worn.”
The result? A $220 “survival tote” (above), a washed canvas and nylon bag full of functional pockets and complete with an umbrella; a $220 diaper bag, which comes with a matching changing pad; and $115 rain boots (below), which fold into themselves and can be toted in a small camo bag.
The purchase of the tote provides 100 children with emergency food; buying the diaper bag gives one mother and child a year’s worth of micronutrient powder; grab the boots and you’ll give 25 children that all-important emergency food.
“Part of this survival theme is not only about city survival, but it really is about where the food is going, too,” Lauren explained. “World hunger can be so incredibly overwhelming, that you don’t even know where to begin [to help]. So hopefully FEED is a conduit for people to get involved in the fight.”
Lauren founded FEED in her New York City apartment after traveling the world as a student ambassador for the UN World Food Programme. “I’d come back from these trips frustrated,” she explained. “You’d go and talk to students who are interested and excited and inevitably ask, ‘Well, what can I do?’ And I didn’t really know how to empower and engage young people.”
Going on her UN trips, and meeting people who often lived on less than $1 per day, Lauren eventually “had the ‘aha!’ moment of, ‘Why not design a product that gave back?'” she recalled. “To feed a child at school for a year doesn’t cost a lot of money, so why not build that cost and do a consumer product, so people become donors?”
After selling her first FEED 1 bag to amazon.com, and then doing a major collaboration with Whole Foods Market in 2008 (collaborations with Godiva, Judith Leiber, Clarins and more have since followed), Lauren was able to feed all of the schoolchildren in Rwanda for one year. “That was so huge [and] validating,” she said.
Now, the company is stepping up its efforts to help fight hunger in the United States, too. “The current statistics are that 49 million Americans are food-insecure,” Lauren said. “Eighteen percent of America relies on food pantries or soup kitchens, and that’s just hard to fathom.”