Triangle United Way offers $50,000 for ideas to reduce childhood hunger

sgilman@newsobserver.comMay 1, 2014 

  • United Way’s contest

    Submissions are due June 12. Any business, nonprofit, group or individual in the Triangle can apply for the challenge.

    To learn more, go to You can also visit the Facebook page, or the Twitter account, @UWTriangle. To promote an idea on social media, use the hash tag #100KNoMore.

— Not everybody in North Carolina knows how they are going to get their next meal – or feed their children – and that’s a solvable problem, according to Mack Koonce, CEO of the United Way of the Greater Triangle.

His organization, which supports other nonprofits in the Triangle, is offering a $50,000 grant to the person or organization with the best idea for reducing childhood hunger. The organization announced The Innovative Challenge – 100,000 Kids Hungry No More on Thursday and will take ideas from residents of Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties.

The winning idea must have “bottom line impact” on families and their children and be practical, a “game changer” and able to help hundreds or even thousands of children.

Twenty percent of North Carolina’s children are “food insecure,” meaning they sometimes do not have adequate food, according to a study by Feeding America, a national group of food banks.

“There’s over 100,000 in Johnston County, Durham County, Wake County and Orange County that are hungry,” said Chris Pfitzer, vice president of communications for United Way of the Greater Triangle. “It’s a big number, and we want people to be aware of it.”

Koonce said he is hoping the challenge will get thousands of people thinking about hungry kids, and perhaps a hundred or more to submit an idea. He said his desire to alleviate hunger among children is sparked by its widespread and damaging nature.

“It’s not just about hunger. It’s about their education, their health,” he said. “I think it’s both how detrimental it is to their whole health and psyche and education. We can work on making better schools, but it’s not going to help these kids that are hungry.”

The idea started about a year ago when Koonce sat in his office with Christopher Gergen, then-president of Bull City Forward, a nonprofit in Durham that helps entrepreneurs tackle their city’s problems. They talked about “innovation,” Koonce said, and “harnessing the intellectual capital of the next generation.”

The $50,000 will go to an individual or organization to implement the winning idea. Koonce said he believes reducing childhood hunger is possible with the right ideas.

“It’s not like we don’t have enough food,” he said. “This problem can be solved. We can do this one in any community, and especially in this community.”

Gilman: 919-829-8955

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