Friday, September 23, 2011

Interview with FEED's Lauren Bush

Lauren Bush is the CEO and co-founder of FEED, a line of reusable bags that she began designing in 2006 to help benefit United Nations World Food Program's (WFP) School Feeding operations. The price of a donation to the WFP is built into the cost of each product. Each bag is stenciled with a unique number that shows where the money is going. For example, a FEED 1 bag will provide daily nutrient powder to one child for an entire year. A FEED 3 bag will provide nutrients to three children for an entire year.

We teamed up with Lauren Bush and FEED to sell bags benefiting Guatemala. The FEED 1 bags are sold for $19.50 and the FEED 3 bags are sold for $39.50. Read the interview below to find out more about Lauren and FEED.

American Eagle: Reaching out to Universities is a great way to get a learning generation involved to make a difference, when did you start the connection and what can students do on campus to get involved?
Lauren Bush: My journey with FEED began as a student spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). During that time, I was able to travel with the WFP to countries like Guatemala, where I saw firsthand the effects that hunger and malnutrition had on children. The challenge I had as a spokesperson was seeing these issues and coming home to talk to young people in different schools about not only what I saw, but what could be done about it - which was how the original FEED 1 bag came about. I developed this bag to help benefit the school feeding program through the WFP, which gives kids a lunch meal in school and is often the only meal they may get that day. I created this bag with the cost of feeding 1 child in school for 1 year, only $20, built into the retail cost of the bag - so that just by buying a bag, anyone can help feed a child. And spreading the mission and message of FEED is always a great way to show your support with the fight against hunger - along with sporting your favorite FEED bag!

AE:What was one of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome? How did you overcome it?
LB: I think one of the biggest challenges that any entrepreneur has is just believing in yourself and your idea, and getting that idea in the right hands and audience. I had the idea for the FEED 1 bag in 2004, but I was turned away from a number of retailer stores before and soon after Whole Foods Market placed orders in 2006. And thanks to our great supporters and retail partners like American Eagle Outfitters, FEED has continued on ever since and has been able to donate more than $6 million to charities such as the WFP and UNICEF.

AE: If you could share one moment when you felt that Project FEED started making its first impact, what was it?
LB: Our partnership with Whole Foods Market and the FEED 100 bag allowed us to provide school meals to all of the children in Rwanda for an entire year, which still amazes me to this day. And I also remember seeing my first FEED bag on the streets of New York soon after we launched - I still get excited when I see people wearing them!

AE: Security and sustainability are crucial to working towards a solution to ending hunger, what advice do you give to someone who wants to make a standing difference?
LB: Every little bit helps, when you're talking about hunger - whether its volunteering at a local soup kitchen, or organizing a food drive on campus, or even educating yourself and others on the important issues surrounding hunger and malnutrition. And think outside the box - you never know where the next great idea will come from.

AE: What was your inspiration behind the design aesthetic for the bags?
LB: The original FEED 1 bag was inspired by the burlap bags of grain that you see on farms - making it a true "FEED" bag. I was also inspired by the reusable bag movement that was just beginning to take shape, and a FEED bag is a simple and easy tote to carry things in without using a plastic bag. Now FEED bags come in many shapes, colors, and sizes and include bracelets, teddy bears, scarves, and t-shirts, with much more still to come!

FEED Guatemala bags are available in AE stores and online. Click the pictures below to see some of the FEED bags available on!