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Philabundance and Sesame Street Host Community Screening Dealing with Hunger in America

Local Screening Provides Families Opportunity to Watch Muppet Special Dealing with Hunger in America

Philadelphia, Pa.—October 17, 2011 -On October 9, 2011, Sesame Street and its iconic Muppets took on the issue of hunger through a PBS primetime television special called Growing Hope Against Hunger. Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization and Sesame Workshop, held a community screening at Philabundance’s Hunger Relief Center to showcase the program and provide educational opportunities for families around the issue of hunger in America. Philabundance supporters, volunteers and clients attended the episode screening and toured Philabundance’s Hunger Relief Center on Tuesday, October 11.

The special, made possible by the generous support of Walmart, presents families’ personal stories to raise awareness of the widespread issue of hunger in the United States, as well as strategies that have helped these families find resources and grow stronger together.  Growing Hope Against Hunger also introduces a new Muppet named Lily whose family has an ongoing struggle with hunger.

“There are more people living in poverty ever before and our children are the ones hit hardest by hunger,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “Educating young children on the issue of hunger and helping them understand the concept and how they can help is essential.  Hunger will not be eliminated until we as a society say this is unacceptable.  Educating children on food insecurity and encouraging empathy around hunger is crucial.”

Families facing food insecurity is a growing issue in the Delaware Valley and in the United States.  Philadelphia has one of the highest child poverty rates in the US with 1 child out of 3 living at or below the federal poverty line. (American Community Survey, 2009) The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million American children — nearly 1 in 4 — have limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food. Of these children, more than half (9.6 million) are under the age of 6.*

In response, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, with funding and partnership from United Health Care and the Merck Foundation, launched Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget in Fall 2010. The multimedia and bi-lingual (English and Spanish) Food for Thought resource kits, created by Sesame Workshop with the guidance from an Advisory Board, were developed to provide free resources in support of families with young children coping with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

With a $1.5 million grant from Walmart, Growing Hope Against Hunger extends the Food for Thought initiative through the national television broadcast of the new primetime special, the distribution of 35,000 Food for Thought resource kits and along with Philadelphia, Walmart will host screenings in 15 other communities.  In May 2010, Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. through 2015.

“At Walmart, we’re committed to fighting hunger and providing healthy, affordable food to families across the U.S.,” said Andrea Thomas, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart. “We’re proud to partner with Sesame Street to help raise awareness of the issue of hunger in America and what we can do to help our neighbors.”
“Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life’s most difficult issues.” said Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop. “Growing Hope Against Hunger is Sesame Workshop’s contribution to all those who face the invisible crisis in the United States that is food insecurity.  We are honored to have the generous support of the Walmart Foundation and to work with Brad and Kim and all our supporters and especially the families who share their very personal stories so others can learn and benefit from their journeys.”

Growing Hope Against Hunger, produced by Sesame Workshop with documentary films by Academy Award winning director and filmmaker Cynthia Wade, featured Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley.  “Food insecurity is a growing and difficult issue for adults to discuss, much less children,” said Brad and Kimberly.  “We are honored that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked us to be a part of this important project. We hope that it will not only provide families with the tools they need to help them cope and live the healthiest life possible, but will educate the general population about the extent of food insecurity and hunger in the United States.”

* Nord, Mark, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States, 2008. ERR-83, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. November 2009.

In addition, a Spanish version of the special will air on October 22nd at 1 PM ET/PT on Univision and on October 23rd at 1 PM ET/PT on Telefutura.  All materials will also be available online at sesamestreet.org/food.

About Philabundance:
Philabundance reduces hunger and food insecurity in the Delaware Valley by providing food access to people in need in partnership with organizations and individuals. Philabundance provides a full plate of services to close to 500 member agencies in 9 counties, who serve approximately 65,000 people per week at a cost of 50 cents per meal. There are more than 900,000 people in the Delaware Valley who are at risk for chronic hunger and malnutrition. In 2010, Philabundance distributed 21 million pounds of food. For more information about Philabundance, visit www.philabundance.org or call 215-339-0900.

About Walmart:
Walmart is proud to support initiatives that help people live better around the globe.  In May, 2010, Walmart pledged a historic $2 billion to fight hunger in the US.  In addition, the company is committed to providing healthier, more affordable food for its customers; Walmart is working with suppliers to make healthy, fresh food less costly.  Other initiatives supported by Walmart include education, workforce development and environmental sustainability.  To learn more, visit www.walmartfoudation.org.

About Sesame Workshop:
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 150 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at www.sesameworkshop.org.

About PBS:
PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans – from every walk of life – the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 115 million people on-air and online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and Web site, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.

About Cynthia Wade Productions:
Cynthia Wade is an Oscar-winning documentary director. Her 2010 short documentary Born Sweet, about a Cambodian village poisoned by arsenic-laced well water, was awarded fifteen film festival prizes around the world.  Her 2008 short documentary FREEHELD won the Academy Award as well as prizes at 16 other worldwide film festivals; the documentary is now being made into a feature film starring Ellen Page.  Wade recently directed the feature-length documentary Living the Legacy: The Untold Story of Milton Hershey School, which is currently airing on the IFC and Sundance Channels.  Her work has been seen on PBS, A&E, Discovery, HBO, Cinemax, The History Channel and AMC.  She is currently directing a new film for HBO about women’s relationship to their hair when diagnosed with cancer.  Learn more at www.cynthiawade.com.

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