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Feeding America

A Closer Look: Leighton Meester on Growing Up Food-Insecure

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In a new essay, our #VBGIVESBACK women of the quarter, actress Leighton Meester, shares her own story of growing up in a food-insecure household. If you're harboring any preconceived notions of poverty, this is a must read. Because as she proves, there is no "face" of hunger. It can be anyone. "People you know and interact with every day may be struggling with food insecurity," says Meester. "These are people who have jobs, homes, families, transportation—and they can still, at the end of the month, find themselves struggling to put food on the table."

For more on our partnership with Feeding America®, read our other interview with Meester here. And don't forget that, from now until the end of the year, every single veronicabeard.com order gives back to the cause.

Photograph via @itsmeleighton

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Essay

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Growing up, my family relied on welfare and food stamps. Often times, we had to forego groceries to cover other costs. We had to get supplemental food from our local churches and really depended on school lunches—school breakfasts, too. The situation ebbed and flowed. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning of the month, we might be able to do a grocery run and feel like we were set; by the end of the month, we were putting things back from the cart.

Food insecurity wasn't something I was necessarily aware of—to me, it was just normal—but it did impact me as a kid and caused feelings of instability in school, with friends, during the holidays. I probably didn't realize it at the time—and other people might have not have even noticed—but it did make me feel insecure. It was a mental thing, feeling less than. And, in ways, it carried into my adult life. Even when I wasn't facing food insecurity anymore, I still felt that instability.

Like every kid, I wished we could have a big family meal, especially around the holidays. Or after school, go to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Kids need fuel to make it through the school day and through after-school activities. Imagine going to soccer practice and not having a snack. A lot of times students live far from the school—a two-, three-hour drive—and they may not be able to eat until they get home. Filling those gaps so they are nourished is important, especially if the parents are working.

Here and below: Leighton volunteering in LA with Feeding America

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“We need to take away the stigma from food insecurity.”

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People you know and interact with every day may be struggling with food insecurity. These are people who have jobs, homes, families, transportation—and they can still, at the end of the month, find themselves struggling to put food on the table. Your child may have classmates who are struggling. The people you work with or encounter through the day may be struggling. We need to take away the stigma from food insecurity and have empathy for what others are going through.

Looking back, my upbringing has made me who I am. Now, I'm much more grateful for everything I have, and it's important for me to use whatever channels I have to bring awareness to this cause. That's why the work Feeding America does really speaks to me and why I've partnered with them all these years. I also see this through a mom's eyes now and the best way I can teach my kids to give back is by showing them. — Leighton Meester

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