“DOING GOOD LOOKS GOOD ON YOU” IS THE MOTTO OF THIS FIRST NIECE’S COMPANY ONE THAT TACKLES WORLDWIDE HUNGER IN STYLE
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI
Lauren Pierce Bush, granddaughter of one American president and niece of another, faced a stark reality during her sophomore year at Princeton University. The anthropology major traveled to Central America, Asia, and Africa with the United Nations World Food Program, where she got up close and personal with the realities of poverty and hunger. She learned that lack of proper nutrition affects approximately 795 million people daily, and witnessed that for too many children, school lunch is the only meal available all day.
Taking a different path towards the philanthropy and public service practiced by most of her large extended family, Bush, now Lauren Bush Lauren since marrying the son of fashion designer Ralph Lauren in 2011, was inspired by her experiences to create FEED in 2007. Termed an “impact driven lifestyle brand,” the business creates and sells products that help feed children worldwide, including in the United States, and recently opened its first dedicated retail store in Dumbo’s Empire Stores complex.
As CEO, she spearheads the selection and design of fashion forward and functional items for the company, as well as the materials they’re made from, including natural substances like linen, leather, hemp, and copper. Its ever evolving inventory includes bags, totes, pouches, jewelry, accessories, and home products like candles and coffee made by artisans from Kenya, India, and other countries. Items bear slogans, animal motifs, and the brand logo, with every one indicating how many meals are purchased through its sale.
The company provides direct meal donations to needy children worldwide, delivered through on the ground partners like governments, schools, and relief workers affiliated with the UN World Food Program as well as the No Kid Hungry organization in the U.S. As of mid June, FEED has provided 107,500,000 meals (and counting) in 63 countries.
“Hunger is a daily reality, limiting human flourishing, health, and potential in too many communities,” Bush Lauren said. “The most vulnerable are often children, whose mental and physical growth and ultimately potential to create a better future is dependent on this most basic human need. The hopeful news is that childhood hunger is a solvable problem.”
The Texas native is the daughter of Neil Bush, son of the late President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush. One uncle, George W. Bush, was the 43th President of the United States; another, Jeb Bush was the Governor of Florida.
“Obviously,” she said, the family’s legacy of public service was an influence on her career path from part time fashion model while in college to founder and CEO of her own philanthropic enterprise. “It was not [an] expectation of public service, but that was always talked about,” she explained.
“My mom had a charity for homeless and abused children.” Several family members have been involved in promoting and supporting FEED products, and her grandmother was “very proud to carry its bags. My family has really embraced the idea that this is a business model that can make an impact.” Not a non profit, the company is what is known as a “social business.”
Rather than donating a percentage of profits or proceeds like other organizations, it donates an exact amount from each product sold (built into its cost) toward meals. For instance, the purchase of the “FEED 10 Bag” helps provide ten school meals for children in some of the world’s most impoverished places.
“We believe in the power of everyday purchases to transform lives,” Bush Lauren said.
“Our consumers know the impact of what they are buying. We provide a tangible, shareable, and giftable way to make a difference.” On July 25, Bush Lauren, her husband David Lauren, and her father in law, Ralph Lauren, will debut their new collaborative partnership the Capsule Collection “Polo x FEED.” Conceived to benefit No Kid Hungry, it’s comprised of four styles a tote bag, backpack, pouch, and baseball cap made of burlap and linen and with leather trim detailing. The line will be available in select Ralph Lauren stores and on ralphlauren.com. The team has worked together previously, pairing FEED with Ralph Lauren’s Double RL and Rugby lines.
“Ralph weighed in on the inspiration and had spot on feedback,” Bush Lauren said.
“He added new products and made the bag more beautiful. He was very much at the center of the design process.”
In addition to their philanthropic aspects, the collaborations are a realization of the “passion for fashion” that led Bush Lauren to apply to several higher education institutions in the Northeast.
“I wanted to go to college near New York and felt lucky to get into Princeton,” she recalled. “I loved my time there. The campus is so beautiful and I loved living near New Jersey’s horse country. It was a peaceful and idyllic setting.”
Manhattan is where she resides today with her husband (chief innovation officer for Ralph Lauren) and children, whom she said are “slowly being recruited” into FEED operations and see its products strewn about their home.
“David jokes they can fit into one of our bags,” she laughed. Bush Lauren endeavors to get people of all ages involved in fighting hunger by using parties and gatherings as a means of fundraising.
The company’s Supper initiative urges supporters to host events as simple as pizza parties or informal “cooking classes” as well as more formal or holiday affairs with guests donating to the cause.
Tips and suggestions are detailed on FEED’s website, including ways to involve children, various activities, and how to increase awareness of the positive effects of everyone’s efforts on the lives of the ultimate meal recipients, their families, and the physical and economical health of their communities.
Bush Lauren is reminded of the effects of these efforts every time she travels to the countries the company serves, speaks with those administering its programs, and interacts with the children who are happier and healthier, learning, and staying in school because they are better fed.
“It’s important to meet our humanitarian aid partners, whether in a place like Sri Lanka, where I visited in April, or here in the United States,” she related. “It reconnects me to why I started FEED and helps me keep up with what’s going on in the field. We also encourage people to get involved in the issue of hunger beyond shopping. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to give a lot.”
FEED Shop & Café
Empire Stores / Address: 55 Water Street 929.397.2716 / feedprojects.com