By SHANNON MOLTER
Picture a fashionable bag made out of burlap, organic fabrics, decorated in sequins. It stands out from the average handbag and compliments your outfit perfectly. “FEED” is stamped on the bag to show that it is a product of the FEED Projects, and has a mission much greater than providing a trendy accessory.
The mission of FEED Projects is to feed hungry children around the world with the proceeds of every purchased bag.
Entrepreneur, humanitarian and activist, Lauren Bush Lauren, created FEED Projects to fight hunger by selling stylish products.
Lauren’s passion for feeding the hungry began when she was a sophomore in college while attending Princeton University. She was able to go on a trip with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and experience first hand the physical effects of hunger.
After traveling to third world countries with the WFP, “I felt frustrated because I would meet amazing children that were born into a life of poverty and hunger and I wanted to do something about it,” Lauren said.
When Lauren returned to America, she was determined to change things. She discovered that many of her classmates wanted to help with the problem of world hunger too, but did not know how.
During this time Lauren also discovered a love for fashion design. She enrolled in design classes and participated in internships. It was crunch-time in her college career for her to decide her major. She needed to decide between becoming a fashion designer or a humanitarian aid worker.
Around her junior year she combined her two passions, and “had an ‘aha’ moment for the feed bag,” said Lauren.
“The first feed bag was inspired from the bags of food I saw being distributed around the world,” said Lauren. “With every bag sold, we were able to feed one child in school for one year.”
Lauren initially intended the bags to be a fundraising tool for the WFP, but found out that the WFP could not sell products. This resulted in Lauren beginning the FEED Projects.
The first sale was 500 bags to Amazon.com in 2007. The second sale was to Whole Foods. “[Whole Foods] bought over 400,000 bags, which fed the entire school population in Rwanda for a year,” Lauren said.
The partnership with Whole Foods helped launch FEED Bags, and led to many other partnerships with companies such as Target, Gap, Nordstrom, and many more. Due to these partnerships and awareness growing about the FEED Project, “we have been able to give over 75 million school meals to date,” said Lauren.
Lauren Bush Lauren came to Mount Mary University on March 5 to speak at the Voices of Leadership event, “Fashioning Change.” Lauren gave a speech at the event about the FEED Projects, following a speech from Carly Fiorina, the global ambassador of Opportunity International.
Voices of Leadership series hosted by the Women’s Leadership Institute purpose was to ”convene women from diverse backgrounds to learn from established leaders, share ideas and develop fresh thinking about their own leadership,” said Shannon Gross, Administrative Coordinator at the Women’s Leadership Institute. “Specifically for our students, we feel that hearing from the many women, all who have different voices and perspectives, provides a unique learning experience that you cannot recreate by reading a text book.”
Campus departments come together for common goal
Students from Mount Mary University’s art, art therapy, interior design and fashion departments collaborated to decorate and prepare for the event.
Art students in design principles and printmaking classes created the installation “Hunger in Flight,” which hung in the entrance of Bergstrom Hall that all attendees passed on the way to the event in the Alumnae Dining Room. It featured hand-printed birds, wood grain texture and chain link to combine the idea of urban and rural.
“The installation was inspired by the hunger crisis in the city of Milwaukee,” said Chelsea Hassi, art student at Mount Mary University. “Since Lauren Bush Lauren was working to combat hunger in other countries, we wanted to focus our piece on the efforts that can be made in our hometown.”
Art therapy students participated by writing six-word poems which focused on positive change. The poems were then created into graphically interesting designs by lettering and typography students, and given to each attendee of the Fashioning Change event.
Fashion merchandising students arranged stage designs including a creative background design and mannequins featuring FEED Project’s products.
“We wanted the room to have an organic and warm atmosphere inspired by the countries FEED Projects supported,” said Valerie Gonzales, merchandise management student at Mount Mary University. “As a team we [fashion merchandising students] picked clothing, bags, scarves and bracelets that would represent what Lauren Bush Lauren stands for.”
Interior design students utilized their design skills to set up the table displays at the event. The decorations on the tables were inspired by the speaker’s organizations such as FEED Projects, Opportunity International and Fair Trade For All. The tables had a natural feel with earth tones and a strip of burlap laid down the center, making every table unique.
At the end of the event, Lauren Bush Lauren advised the audience to do four things, “Make your purchases count… find your cause…apply your passion, and join the FEED movement.”