When Kellie Pickler was asked to join the team behind the Hunger-Free Summer campaign, she couldn't refuse.
Aimed at providing meals and calling attention to the plight of children who don't have enough to eat on a daily basis, she's encouraging Americans to download a booklet, Hunger Avengers, which educates kids about the cause using puzzles and fun activities. For every download and share from the ConAgra Foods Foundation's Hunger-Free Summer Facebook page, one meal will be donated to a child in need through Feeding America.
Along with speaking on behalf of the organizations, Pickler is also encouraging her fans to volunteer at a local food bank -- something she had done at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee just hours before this interview.
"This campaign doesn't cost a dime," Pickler told CMT.com. "All it costs is two minutes of your time. Not even that long. Two clicks, really, on Facebook. Millions of people in the United States have a Facebook page. If you have one, I guarantee you're going to check it today like you did every other day. There's no excuse for you not to log on to ConAgra Foods' Facebook page and click one button and download a booklet."
In person, Pickler's spirit is honest and unselfish when it comes to giving. Her warmth is as contagiously infectious as it is sincere. Find out why she believes you need to be a part of this campaign, which runs through Sept. 3. And be warned. She has a message for those of you not volunteering.
CMT: In Middle Tennessee, it's estimated that nearly 400,000 kids don't know when they're going to have their next meal. What is your reaction to that?
Pickler: I was completely shocked. I had no idea. That's almost half a million kids that have to carry a huge burden. That's a big burden to carry. I was blown away when I heard those numbers, and I was blown away that one in five in the United States have to worry whether or not they're going to have a meal. That just blows my mind. There are so many issues and problems in the world that we have no control over and we really can't do anything about, but this is not one of them. This is something that if we all come together we can fix this problem. This is fixable. There's no excuse.
These kids, like I said, should not have to carry this burden. The only thing they should have to worry about is being a kid. The only thing they should have to worry about is their schoolwork. They shouldn't have to worry about whether or not they're going to eat. That's unacceptable. There's poverty everywhere in the world, and it's important that we always continue to reach out a hand to third world countries -- anywhere that is hurting. We should always reach out and help, but we have to help the people here, as well. Especially the kids.
When you were at the food bank volunteering, what touched you?
I was so moved by the kids that were in there helping at the Second Harvest Food Bank. All the kids that came out to help participate and volunteer in sorting through all the food -- which is a lot -- but it goes quickly. I was so moved that these kids took the time to volunteer and just be a part of something that makes such a big difference. And the thing that's really neat about it is that they're having an impact on kids their age. It really puts it into a whole other perspective. I brought my younger brother Eric, who's 12, with me today. It was good for him to be there so he can see there are little boys and little girls his age that are having to go to bed hungry and not know if they're going to get a meal the next day.
For people that have never volunteered or experienced this issue firsthand, how would you get them to realize that they need to take action? What would you say to them?
Word of mouth is so powerful. ... When you write about this, there are people that are going to read this that had no idea that this was even going on. And because you write about this, they're going to jump in and be a part of this. They're going to tell their friends and the snowball effect happens. And before you know it, you have just reached and touched and saved lives. Millions of lives. There are so many kids that are hurting right now, and there's no excuse for that.
Like I said earlier, you might not financially be able to donate money -- and that's OK. A lot of people are in that same boat where they can't, but they still want to help out. There are food banks everywhere in the United States. Go to your local food bank and say, "Hey, I want to volunteer. Put me to work, what can I do? I'm yours for the day." That makes a big difference.
Just like earlier today at the food bank, those were volunteers. Those kids and adults were volunteering to help package food. There are a lot of mouths to feed, so it's going to take a lot of hands to prepare the food to be shipped out to them. So just talking about it, just things as simple as this campaign going on to ConAgra Foods' Facebook page -- it is so simple. If you don't do it, you're lazy and you have no compassion in your heart! Something's wrong with you if you know how you can help someone and you take the time to tweet and Facebook stupid stuff that doesn't even matter, but you can't take the time to be a part of something like this. Then you're a loser!
CMT: Where did you get these kinds of convictions? You're very passionate.
I don't know. It's just the right thing to do. There's right, and there's wrong. If I didn't know about any of this, I didn't know about it. But I know about it, and so for me not to take advantage of the knowledge that I now have, it would be a shame. And everyone should feel compassionate about it. If you know about an issue and you're able to help, why would you not help?
And you never know when the tables are going to turn and you might be the one that's reaching out, hoping that somebody reaches their hand out to you. So it really does just put everything in a whole different light. The more you know about what's going on, the more you know about these issues, the more you know how to help. The more ways you can figure out how you can be a part of something that makes a difference. And it makes you feel good. Anytime you do something for somebody, anytime you do the right thing, it makes you feel good.