What Leighton Meester Is Teaching Her Daughter About Giving Back Through Her Work With Feeding America

Photo Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Shamrock Farms

Leighton Meester may be a beautiful, successful Hollywood star with a gorgeous family and a great husband (fellow actor Adam Brody), but this wasn’t always the case. The 32-year-old actress had her fair share of struggle, even facilitating food stamps for time), which is why working with Feeding America is especially important to her. The “Single Parents” and “Gossip Girl” star is a member of Feeding America‘s Entertainment Council, as well as an ambassador for the non-profit, a hunger relief organization with a nationwide network of food banks feeding the hungry. As part of her ambassador duties, she teamed up with Shamrock Farms and Subway on National Milk Day last month to continue the fight against hunger and give back to families in need; in fact, on this day, she helped both brands donate a check to Feeding America totaling $35,000, which will help provide 350,000 meals to people in need. We spoke to Meester about her work with the non-profit, why she gives back and what values she and Brody are teaching their daughter Arlo Day about philanthropy. 

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

How did you become involved with Feeding America?

I started volunteering with Feeding America a few years ago at local food banks in communities around LA, and have grown in my efforts since then to schools and the Downtown Women’s center, one of my favorite organizations. I even traveled with them to Puerto Rico to help neighborhoods devastated by the hurricane.

Why is this personally such an important cause for you?

Because I faced times where I experienced food insecurity growing up – not knowing if we could afford food at the store or having food to put on the table – I wanted to get involved and lend my voice to help raise awareness for this cause. It’s such a basic instinct to want to feed your family and enjoy a meal together. The experience of being food insecure and not being able to do that every day is a huge hardship. Working with Feeding America has been truly humbling.

I’ve read that you grew up on food stamps. How did this impact your affiliation with the cause?

I can’t help but be reminded by my childhood and think about it in relation to my own family now and for others that I’ve met through working with Feeding America. Growing up I relied on the school’s lunch each day. Volunteering through them is so gratifying as it provides opportunities to be face-to-face with people who in many ways come from the same walks of life as I did. An estimated 40 million Americans including more than 12 million children experience food insecurity. So many people have a job and income but it just may not be enough. It’s why supporting an organization like Feeding America and their efforts to eventually end hunger is so important.

Meester with Cherie Simon, Director of Entertainment and Industry Relations at Feeding America

Photo Credit: Feeding America

Even though you’ve been a well-established Hollywood star for many years, have you ever lost that part of you that remembers what it was like to struggle? Why or why not?

I haven’t. Now that I’m a mom, I actually remember that time even more. It’s such a joy to be able to feed your family and enjoy a meal together, so to not be secure in doing that every day is a huge hardship that many people face. It’s what motivates me to be so involved in my community, every little bit helps. One of the most eye-opening moments through my work with them was that for some students who rely on the school lunch, by the time they are picked up they then may have to drive an hour or longer after school and may not have another meal after lunch until late in the evening. That’s a long time for a child to go without a meal.

Why should there be a call to action to have others get involved with Feeding America?

Because someone you know or love that you think is food secure may not be, and that is reality for so many families. $1 goes a long way to help. The smallest amount can make a big impact for so many people.

What are you teaching your daughter about giving back?

I think kids learn best by example. So my hope is that I can make her aware of the importance of helping others through my actions. And, if one day she wants to volunteer with Feeding America that would be great too.

You star on “Single Parents,” but what is something important that you and your husband do/teach your daughter as co-parents?

We like to show how we enjoy food, not just for sustenance but also for how it brings our family together. As she starts to understand the world beyond herself, in the future she can look back on these times and see how others who may have less than her, doesn’t make them different as people.

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