Chef Jason Alley on Growing up with Food Insecurity + Why #NoKidHungry Matters More Than Ever

Jason AlleyAs we continue to celebrate Dine Out for No Kid Hungry Month, Share Our Strength supporter chef Jason Alley, co-owner of Comfort, which just marked its 13th year in business, and Pasture restaurants in Richmond, Virginia, discusses his experiences with childhood hunger, why school breakfast and lunch should be available to all students, and the worst thing you can donate to a food bank.

You faced food insecurity regularly as a child. How did that affect your everyday life?

It creates massive stress. I grew up in southwest Virginia around the Appalachian Mountains, and we were certainly not alone in being poor in that area. There’s a lot of poverty. Food was always scarce. Growing up rural was nice because we had plenty of friends that hunted, and my grandmother had a garden, but that didn’t always make the cut. So food was always first and foremost on our minds all the time, like, how are we gonna make this happen? How are we going to get everybody fed?

Can you remember some of the toughest periods?

There were many times when I moved to Florida with my mom when there were weeks and weeks in which it was literally school lunch and white rice at home. That would just be it for extended periods of time.

As a child, how did you sit through school and succeed when you’re so undernourished?

I didn’t really succeed. I was unmotivated to be at school. Think about if you’re sitting at your desk and you had to skip breakfast, and now it’s lunchtime. You bottom out. You find yourself dozing off at your desk. You get hangry and cranky. Now, imagine that being a habitual thing. To think anyone is going to be successful under those circumstances is just unreasonable.

The free breakfast and lunch programs that a lot of schools have gone to are crucial in setting the stage for success for these kids. Our kids are starting public middle school for the first time this year, and their school has free breakfast and free lunch for every kid in the school.

When it’s available to everyone, I would imagine there is less of a stigma.

When I was a kid I had my little free lunch card. You’re going through puberty, kids are already starting to get bullied, you don’t have the cool clothes, and now, oh yeah, here’s your poor kid card. Have a great day! That’s just an added stressor. I think it is really progressive for a school to alleviate that stress. You know what? It’s free for everybody. Nobody pays, nobody gets singled out.

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Were there other resources to help you and your family?

We benefited from local food banks and a lot of church food closets. There were plenty of days where we would have been even hungrier had that not been available.

I feel like it’s hard for some people to take that step and go to food pantries, as if there were shame in it.

We’re a shaming culture. We’re really good at it. If you’re hungry and you need help, there’s nothing wrong with that. It sucks to feel as though you have to ask for charity, but it’s more important to look at the positives it brings. It makes everybody feel good. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s working at or going to a food pantry or food bank that is going to be looking down their nose at you. It’s a shared experience. If you can accept the help for what it is, which is help and generosity, and you can use that to get yourself moving forward, then everything is working how it’s supposed to work.

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OpenTable Goes to Washington: Supporting #NoKidHungry on Capitol Hill

Connecting with friends and family around a great meal is one our favorite activities. However, for millions of people across the country (and globe), finding the next meal isn’t as simple as clicking “Reserve Now.” Today, 48.8 million Americans live with food insecurity. 16.2 million of them are children. For the first time in over 50 years, 51% of children in America’s public schools come from families below the poverty line and struggle with hunger on a daily basis. And hunger affects more than just the appetite. Consequences of hunger can include inability to concentrate, lack of energy or motivation, poor academic performance, behavioral problems and more likelihood to get sick. We believe childhood hunger is a solvable problem — and organizations like Share Our Strength are here to find a solution.

Last week, Scott Jampol, senior vice president of marketing at OpenTable, and I were honored to attend Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Summit in Washington, D.C., to engage, learn, and share with fellow No Kid Hungry supporters. We returned to San Francisco energized and inspired by our learnings — and more committed than ever to helping end childhood hunger in America.


On Monday, April 13, more than 200 No Kid Hungry corporate and foundation partners, chefs, culinary volunteers, government representatives, and community leaders gathered in the nation’s capital to outline strategies and opportunities to advance our shared cause. A variety of esteemed speakers — from Share Our Strength founders Billy and Debbie Shore, to Share Our Strength (and former OpenTable) board member and Union Square Hospitality Group restaurateur Danny Meyer, and coach Larry Clark, founder of Life Skills for Youth. Later, supporters, including area OpenTable team members Joe Ryan, Megan Scott, Carley Thomas, Thomas Bateman, Scott Calvert, Julia Sway, and Courtney Sylvester, capped off the day by sipping and supping at Taste of the Nation, D.C., joining more than 100 of the area’s best chefs, restaurateurs, and mixologists, including chefs Bryan Voltaggio (Family Meal) and Art Smith (Art and Soul), as well as local master mixologist Gina Chersevani gathered to share their strength with No Kid Hungry. After the event, chefs, and sponsors celebrated a successful evening at Mike Isabella’s Graffiato, where toasts were held over wood-fired pizzas and delicious No Kid Hungry cocktails.

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Support #NoKidHungry on #GivingTuesday + Donate to Our Annual Bake Sale!

It’s Giving Tuesday, and it’s our fourth fabulous year of holding an annual bake sale in support of No Kid Hungry. The avid home bakers who work at OpenTable have been knee deep in flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and more in preparation for this day of making and consuming mass quantities of divine sweet treats — all for a good cause!

Every cookie sold and every dollar donated can make a huge impact. One dollar can help provide a hungry child with 10 healthy meals, and $46 can help connect a child to meals all year long. Peep some pictures of our bake sale in action, and please donate to help No Kid Hungry end childhood hunger. Together we can bake a difference!

The Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry, presented by Domino® Sugar and C&H® Sugar is a national fundraising initiative that encourages people to host bake sales in their communities to help end childhood hunger. Donate now.


September is Dine Out for #NoKidHungry Month

Dine Out NKHThis month, you can do good while dining out when you eat at a restaurant participating in Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ campaign. Thousands of restaurants across the country are joining the fight to end childhood hunger in America by donating a portion of the proceeds from diners’ meals during September.

You can easily find participating restaurants in the metropolitan areas below, or visit to find restaurants nearest you.

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