Kristin Walter, Investor, Activist and Founder of FeelGood
Kristin Walter has been an inspiration to all of us here in The Hunger Project (THP) since we met her in 2003. With her passion, commitment and determination, she has inspired thousands of young people around the United States, and as she notes below, together with these other "change-makers," has raised over $1 million for the sustainable end of hunger.
"In the Fall of 2003, while a Junior at The University of Texas, my restlessness regarding environmental decline and human degradation that occurs from the silencing of women reached a threshold. A mentor of mine who was privy to my passion for gender equality recommended I check out THP's work. She shared with me THP's deep commitment to women as key change agents in empowering communities to rise above of poverty. Discouraged by reality and desperate to make an impact, I Googled 'The Hunger Project.' I spent hours on www.thp.org and was invigorated by what I read.
- Hunger is not a problem to be solved, but a profound opportunity to unleash the human spirit.
- There are not 962 million mouths to feed; there are 962 million powerful, creative individuals ready to co-create a new future.
- Ending hunger is central to an entire nexus of issues - including family income, health, education, environmental sustainability, human rights and social justice.
- Gender inequality is the fundamental root cause of most of the remaining hunger and extreme poverty in our world.
"What I experienced after reading about THP's methodology and principles was no less than a complete paradigm shift. I needed to respond.
"Aware that investing was one of the most powerful ways to give, at the age of 20, I didn't have much of my own money to invest. Additionally, I was eager to explore THP's perspectives on hunger and gender with my peers. My boyfriend and now-husband, Joseph Herr, recommended I make grilled cheese sandwiches and distribute them on campus for a small donation as a way to raise money and have a conversation. That was easy enough.
"In one week of offering grilled cheese sandwiches, we had raised $160 for THP and engaged people in meaningful conversation in the process. Startled by this success, we kept going and, in the first year as a student organization, we were able to raise $10,000! We called ourselves FeelGood and we were 'ending world hunger, one grilled cheese at a time.'
"Fast forward to 2011 and we are still making grilled cheese sandwiches to raise money for the most cutting edge hunger-ending organization out there - The Hunger Project. With each sandwich, we engage others in restorative dialogue about the human condition and discuss how, together, we can respond. FeelGood has now grown into a national movement on 24 college campuses and mobilized over $1,000,000 for the sustainable end of hunger. That we have ignited a generation of change-makers in the process is one of my greatest joys.
"It has only been through the co-creative process with FeelGood students, my teammates, investors and mentors that our work has been possible. At the end of the day, though, the FeelGood family would not exist if it were not for the courageous members of our human family on the frontlines of hunger. On a 2008 investor trip to Ethiopia, I had the opportunity to meet with one such woman, battling hunger in her and her family's lives.
"At the age of 60, Alamanesh used her first loan from THP-Ethiopia's African Women Food Farmer Initiative [now known as THP's Microfinance Program] to purchase a goat. Through literacy and credit trainings, she gained the skills to make an income and began saving. Her grandchildren are now in school and her family is well fed.
"Meeting Alamanesh in Ethiopia solidified, for life, my conviction to end hunger. Here was a woman, with courage and fortitude I could not comprehend, who had spent her entire life striving to carve out a better life for her family in the direst economic poverty in the world. She never gave up hope that a better future was possible. When I met Alamanesh, her eyes were shining with the deepest of joys, a sustaining sense of self-reliance.
"To take a stand for the end of hunger with women like Alamanesh is nothing less than a privilege. It is an authentic experience of our common humanity and a constant reminder of what the human spirit is capable of."
We also asked Kristin who the most influential woman in her life is. Though she said her life has been richly influenced by many women, it all started with her mother, Wendy King Walter. Kristin says:
"She has been a curious and committed advocate for restoring that which is feminine; whether that be formally with institutions or informally through relationships and mentoring. As a confidently intuitive woman, she has had a keen sense of the voiceless and has been willing to stand with them. She has blessed me with a love so unconditional; I have been able to discover who I am. Who I am, is a stand for a world free from hunger; a world where ALL life can thrive."
- Read about our exciting new endeavor, the Unleashed Women Leaders Initiative.