One-On-One With FEED’s Lauren Bush Lauren
They made your new work bag (which helps end world hunger, too).
When Lauren Bush Lauren founded FEED Projects in 2007, almost ten years ago, she didn’t exactly know how successful the company would become or how she would soon see people everywhere strolling the streets, FEED bag in tow. Or, most importantly, how many children worldwide would be fed as a result of all it. “To date, through mainly bag purchases, we’ve been able to raise over 94 million meals for kids around the world and for families here in America.” If that number seems hard to wrap your head around, try this: every signature Feed 1 Bag (the OG burlap tote thought up by Bush Lauren in her dorm room) feeds one child in school for an entire (yes, entire!) year. And that theme continues throughout their entire product line, with the number on the bag signifying the amount of meals given with your purchase. So that when you’re buying a new weekend bag or makeup pouch for a friend, you know you’re giving back in a very concrete way. Which, in our world where there’s so much stuff is just really… well, nice.
Recently we met up with LBL in her Chelsea offices—decorated in true FEED fashion with earthy wooden tables serving as desks, tokens from her travels across Africa, Asia (and pretty much everywhere) and of course, bags at every corner—to chat about the latest launches, how you can get involved and what’s next for the company.
How she first got involved with the World Food Program:
“I started traveling with the UN World Food Program as a sophomore in college. They were looking to get more young people and students aware and active in the fight against world hunger. With them, I was able to travel to Guatemala, Africa and Sri Lanka. Through these experiences, my eyes were opened to the realities of poverty and hunger that over 800 million people are facing all over the world. So many of those are children, just a product of where they were born. They were born into this life where their physical needs just could not be met. It was shocking to meet these children and their families who are going through this daily struggle. It’s jarring to come back from those trips after having seen what is really going on with so many people and to realize the abundance of food here. We’re so blessed to be able to walk into a grocery store and purchase food. I came back from those experiences wanting to do more and feeling very frustrated with not knowing how to do more and how to engage young people.
“Hunger is so massive and so overwhelming—it’s easy for people to tune out because no one knows what to do about it. And yet, hunger is solvable. We know what it will take to solve hunger. There’s enough food in the world to feed everyone. There’s no need for hunger to exist and persist.”
Her ‘aha’ moment for FEED:
“I loved design. I had been modeling and was exposed to the fashion industry, and I was also using breaks from school to take classes at Parson’s and Central Saint Martin’s. I was debating what career path to take, and I had the ‘aha moment’ for the first FEED bag to combine both of those passions. I want to give back and engage others in the fight to end hunger while incorporating design and fashion. The first FEED bag feeds one child in school for one year. We started selling that in 2007. When I graduated from college, I didn’t get a job because I wanted to see if I could make this FEED thing happen, even if it’s just this first order of bags. Amazon purchased the first order of 500 bags and set up this whole boutique page that told the story and the mission of FEED and was so wonderful. The design of the bag, using burlap and natural materials to harken back to the cause, is inspired by the bags of food that I saw being distributed around the world to schools. We’ve grown organically from there. Nine years later, we’ve done partnerships with the likes of Target, Clarins, West Elm, an array of companies. To date, through mainly bag purchases, we’ve been able to raise over 94 million meals for kids around the world and for families here in America.
“My hunch was that young people would really want to purchase something that gives back in a meaningful and tangible way. People wanted to get involved in hunger and just didn’t know how. That’s why I thought FEED could be an accessible, solution oriented conduit to do so. But, yeah, I really didn’t know if it would pick up. A month after we had been selling on Amazon when I saw a stranger walking down Lexington Ave with one of our bags! That was a huge moment for me. I was too nervous to stop her, but it was so cool. For any designer or entrepreneur, to see people engaging with what you do and care so much about is huge, but for FEED especially, they’re not just buying our products, they’re supporting our cause, and doing something important, and are part of our FEED movement.”
Their latest collection (which just launched!):
“The Trailblazer collection is a big product evolution for FEED. It’s something we’ve been working on for quite a while now. It’s leather which is something we’ve never done in such a large way. So many people buy FEED bags and love FEED bags, but generally, use them as their secondary weekend or tote bags. They’re not as work appropriate or for going out, so we’re really excited that finally we’re offering our FEED girl a primary bag. It’s something she can go to work with, take out at night, whatever she wants to do.
“Every bag, including the new leather collection, has a number on it. The number signifies how many meals it can donate. The meals go to children in 62 of the poorest countries around the world in schools. The key there is that the school meal they’re getting there is free and nutritious. It’s often the reason that kids are going to school in the first place and staying in school and receiving that education. It’s more holistic than just a meal, it’s really a chance to receive an education.”
How you can give back, too:
“There is that frustration and that moment all too often when people just move on. For people who have that inkling and want to be a part of a social cause, I’d encourage them to really do that soul searching and find how they can make a difference. It can be local by volunteering and rallying some friends and community to help out. I’ve seen that with my fellow social entrepreneur peers, when you can connect your passion with giving back and trying to make the world a better place, that’s where the magic can happen.
What’s next for the organization:
“We have big plans! We are planning on opening our first FEED cafe and store early next year in Brooklyn! We’re so excited, it’s a huge deal. It’s really bringing the brand to life. In the fall, we have FEED supper. It’s a month-long period where we have a call to action for folks to sign up and host FEED suppers. It can be in your home, your office, your favorite restaurant, a picnic, anywhere, just bring together your friends and ask them to make a small contribution to help feed kids. It’s a platform that hopefully makes it easy for people to host. It gives them recipe ideas and a digital toolkit with facts about hunger. For us it’s been this really great community collective way to come together and truly share a meal. The supper kickoff is September 16th, ending on World Food Day on October 16th. Essentially, hosts sign up and then set their individual meal goals. And they send out the invite and the fundraising link and basically just ask friends to give $1, $10, instead of bringing a bottle of wine! For us it’s as much about the engagement around the cause as it is about the fundraising.”