At age 17, in braces, patchwork jeans, and a zeal for interviewing celebrities, Brittany Hodak, then Brittany Jones, spent her weekends hanging out with the Goo Goo Dolls and bowling with Blink 182 for a radio station segment.
Fast forward several years, and she’s in a hotel room waiting to be called in for her big moment on the TV show Shark Tank to find investors for her music business and living on $4 worth of food a day. She had no idea that they were allowed a per diem—a daily cash allowance intended for meals that people in the media, sports, business and entertainment industry get while “on assignment”—until she got a call that the producers had forgotten to give it to her.
That $200 cash became her inspiration for on a plight to fight hunger.
Hodak and her cousin, Jennifer Barker, came up with the concept for Per Diems Against Poverty, a nonprofit that solicits per diem funds to feed the hungry. The average corporate per diem in the United States is $58.50 daily, but that figure is double for some professional athletes, actors, and business executives who are already highly compensated.
Meanwhile, 14% of the population lives at or below the poverty level, and one in six Americans suffers from food insecurity.
Hodak and Barker started targeting professional sports teams to get as many athletes as possible to donate their per diem, which is a unique and widely untapped funding source, because they travel for most of the year. A $100 per diem allocated for each of their average of 100 road games checks out to $10,000 per player, and 100% of those donations are redirected to Feeding America, a network of food banks that serves millions nationwide.
“It’s a very clever idea,” says Ross Fraser, Feeding America’s Director of Media Relations. “It’s always great when someone comes up with a new and innovative way to raise awareness of the issue of hunger in America.”
For MLB player Curtis Granderson, of the New York Mets, donating his $10,000 per diem check this baseball season was a “no-brainer.”
Every dollar donated to Feeding America is the equivalent of 11 meals that goes to feeding the hungry.
Hodak says the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but there’s a long way to go.
“I oscillate between anger, hopefulness and motivation,” says Hodak. “I feel anger that 12 million kids in our country are going to bed hungry, hopefulness that it won’t always be the case, and motivation to be a small part of the solution to this enormous, but one hundred percent solvable, problem.”
Barker has personally delivered boxes of food to those in need, and recalls an encounter with a woman who embraced her with tears in her eyes.
“She said that she could not afford to buy that much food in a month and that we had no idea the difference that this donation would make. ‘This didn’t just make my day. It made my year,’ she said, brushing away tears of her own.
Since its launch in 2015, Per Diems Against Poverty has provided more than 150,000 meals for those struggling with hunger, with a goal to provide 10 million meals by the end of 2016. Currently, 13 MLB and NFL stars have committed to donating their per diems to the organization, and the duo hopes to start collecting corporate donations from business executives traveling for work.Share this article: