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A Big Lebowski in Little Rock: Jeff Bridges Comes to AR to Leave No Kid Hungry

March 17, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - If you ask The Dude, the progress Arkansas is making towards leaving no kid hungry is a "Big Lebowski" deal. Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges is coming to little old Little Rock to celebrate the success Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign has had in making sure children get enough to eat.

According to Kathy Webb, executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, a partner of Share Our Strength, the state has been one of the best for providing more school breakfasts. And she said that in the last year, summer feeding programs have grown by 1.6 million meals, the most in the country.

"Not only were we number one percentage-wise, but we were number one in total meals," she declared. "And the accomplishments that we have made, especially in 2013, are just staggering."

Jeff Bridges has said he wants to focus on things such as breakfast in the classroom for more children because, as he puts it, that can dramatically change a kid's life. Statistics show more breakfasts mean better attendance, better test scores and fewer dropouts. Kathy Webb says that's good for the whole state, including the economy.

"Kids are going to school; they're more likely to graduate. And if you're less likely to drop out, you're improving your economic opportunity for your whole life," she said. "These things are gigantic."

In Arkansas, close to a quarter of kids are at risk of going hungry. But Webb said there is a wide coalition working to change that, including the governor, state agencies, nonprofits, businesses, churches and civic organizations. And she said they've made progress she calls mind-blowing, in a very short time.

"What we're hoping now is even more businesses, more churches, more boys and girls clubs, more folks step up and say, 'Hey, we want to be part of this!'", she said.

Actor Bridges is national spokesman for the No Kid Hungry campaign. He and Share Our Strength CEO Billy Shore are joining pupils at Stephens Elementary School for breakfast today, and then go on to the University of Arkansas for a panel discussion with Governor Mike Beebe.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR