When Discovery launched a new initiative with No Kid Hungry in 2019, the goal was to deliver a billion meals to hungry children in five years. They’ve already pulled it off with years to spare — but the campaign isn’t over.
“We’re not done,” said Jessica Beatus, Discovery’s group vice president for standards and social good. “That’s great that we provided a billion meals, but those meals have been eaten. That doesn’t mean that we’ve solved this at all for the future. A small effort can help a lot of people, but it’s a continual need. We really do have the resources in this country that nobody needs to be hungry, we have a wealth of food here.”
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Beatus said Discovery and No Kid Hungry’s “Turn Up! Fight Hunger” initiative was born out of a lunch that Discovery CEO David Zaslav and chief lifestyle brands officer Kathleen Finch had with legendary writer and activist Gloria Steinem. When Finch and Zaslav boasted that Discovery’s acquisition of Scripps networks like Food and HGTV put them in front of at least 25% of women across the US every night, Steinem asked them: What are you asking them to do?
“Quickly my phone rang, and we started actually working directly with Gloria, looking at all kinds of different issues,” Beatus said. Scripps had a pre-existing relationship with No Kid Hungry, and Beatus said she was impressed with that organization’s plan to combat childhood hunger.
“It was an issue we knew that moms, grandmas, sisters cared a lot about, and just seemed like a really good space for us to lean into,” she said. “Quite frankly, most media companies, in my experience, they bring awareness to issues. They have PSAs and they make you aware of a problem. Our calling card has always been, we want to make sure that we can turn empathy into action.”
The campaign launched in October 2019 with the notion that every $1 donated can equal 10 meals, and that it was easy for viewers to use the company’s Text to Donate platform by texting the word “hungry” to 707070.
“The way that you get there is a mixture of donations, which equal grants to provide different resources that get meals to kids, including things like refrigerated cars and refrigerated trucks, helping save food that otherwise would be wasted,” she said. “And then a lot of advocacy work. Because a lot of this money for food is in state budget but it’s really about just getting it unlocked and utilized so that it gets out into the community.”
And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the issue took on an even greater urgency. “When we started, one in seven kids were living with hunger in the U.S., and when COVID hit by the time we were in March, it was one in four kids,” Beatus said. “And obviously there were so many families out of work, kids were not going to school, they were not able to get their free lunches and free breakfasts.”
Discovery expanded the “Turn Up” messaging to all of its U.S. networks, and worked with No Kid Hungry as it also pivoted from schools to food banks and other outlets, expanding its mission to feeding families. Discovery also promoted No Kid Hungry’s text-to-donate technology to provide information on where U.S. residents could find meal distribution centers.
The campaign was also featured in programming, such as HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation” and “Rock the Block,” while a portion of proceeds from the home sales in the Drew and Jonathan Scott series “Brother vs. Brother” was donated to Turn Up! Fight Hunger. Food Network’s “Chopped: Grudge Match” featured the charity as well.
“Our talent love it,” Beatus said. “Whether you’re a chef and you’re used to feeding people and you cannot even stand the concept of people going without food, or you’re on HGTV, what is a home if there’s no food to eat in the kitchen? Nobody can enjoy these things without basic needs and what really happened during COVID is everybody at every level, whether you’re an advertiser of ours, whether you’re a talent, whether you were an internal produce or, employees, everybody just wanted to help.”
Billy Shore, founder and executive chair of Share Our Strength, the organization behind the No Kid Hungry campaign, lauded Discovery for “its quick pivot to address the immediate need, and for the ongoing partnership that has and continues to help countless families across the country. One billion meals is a significant milestone — but we’re not done yet. Together with Discovery and its audiences, we’re eager to keep increasing that number and feeding as many kids as we can.”
Beatus said she plans to lean on No Kid Hungry to determine how to refocus the campaign once again as the COVID pandemic slows down.
“We’re going to keep counting meals, we really love the metric, and I expect that to be integrated into all of our platforms,” she said. “But I do really want to see as we come out of this year and as schools reopen, what is the best way to make that connectivity to kids. What is the best way to use the fundraising dollars? We work really closely with them but I’m very focused on making sure that every dollar donated is really going to solve this as much as possible. We’re going to look toward them as we start to see things reopen.”
Here’s a PSA that Discovery created to mark the feat:
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