Former First Grandchild Finds Charity Fashionable

By Nancy McLaughlin News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

Even her grandma -- that Barbara Bush -- has one of those FEED Projects tote bags that's become a fashionable hallmark of Lauren Bush Lauren's effort to alleviate hunger around the world.

"My grandmother sweetly carries her FEED bag around," said Lauren, the model and philanthropist granddaughter of one president and niece of another. "They are unofficial official supporters."

Lauren, who carries on the Bush's family legacy of public service -- not through politics but an effort that combines her fashion sense and leadership with compassion -- is the keynote speaker for the United Way of Greater Greensboro's Women in Philanthropy luncheon on Sept. 3 at the Grandover Resort.

As the chief executive officer and founder of the nonprofit FEED Projects, Lauren leads an organization that supports programs and organizations working to fight hunger and eliminate malnutrition throughout the world.

The nonprofit raises funds through the sale of eco-friendly products such as a reversible organic burlap tote with simply the word "feed" on it in oversized letters and through partnerships with companies like Whole Foods Market.

Lauren designed the first FEED 1 bag which, when purchased, feeds one child in school for one year.

The money raised from the eco-friendly products and partnerships has provided more than 75 million meals in this country and globally, mostly through schools.

"While I'm proud of that number," said Lauren, a Princeton graduate who majored in anthropology, "I know there is so much more to be done."

Named one of Fortune Magazine's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, Lauren routinely speaks at global conferences that focus on philanthropy and the issues of hunger and poverty.

The women in philanthropy luncheon, one of the United Way's signature fundraising events, brings together an audience of very involved and powerful women to learn together, connect with one another, and be inspired while supporting the work of United Way.

The United Way also is focusing on hunger in the community through its agency partners, such as the effort this summer to feed hungry children.

"Lauren's humanitarian and social entrepreneurial spirit aligns well with the work of United Way," said Michelle Gethers-Clark, president and CEO of Greensboro's United Way. "She is uniquely concerned and taking action to combat poverty and world hunger."

Lauren's effort goes back to 2004, when she became the honorary student spokesperson for the U.N. World Food Programme. Later, she was inspired to tackle the seemingly overwhelming fight to end world hunger.

"The idea was, why can't we design a consumer good that is fashionable, that people want to buy and wear around, that also has a meaningful impact on children's life around the world?" Lauren said.

The collection (www.feedprojects.com) includes diaper bags, back packs, T-shirts, miscellaneous bracelets and other items -- all with FEED prominently displayed.

Some have numbers -- such as '25' stamped on them -- representing how many children are fed for a year by the purchase of the specific product.

The popularity of the products helped the nonprofit provide more than 3.5 million children with Vitamin A supplements through UNICEF.

Lauren said that while in Greensboro, she wants to emphasize that everyone, regardless of age, education or place in life, can do something about hunger by tapping into their own passions to make the world a better place in other ways.

"I think hunger is one of those causes that's so large and so persistent and is seemingly too large to tackle," Lauren said. "But everyday efforts like these are making a difference."

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