EXCLUSIVE: Viola Davis Is 'Overjoyed' to Support Hunger Is Organization After Experiencing Childhood Hunger
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Viola Davis is happy to use her fame to help raise awareness for Hunger Is.
As a volunteer ambassador for the organization who experienced childhood hunger herself, the 51-year-old actress is "overjoyed" that the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation are awarding over $4.6 million in grants to 110 hunger relief charities through their joint initiative, Hunger Is.
The grants provided by the foundations will provide more breakfasts and eradicate childhood hunger in the U.S., working to increase free and reduced-cost school breakfast, improve the nutritional quality of breakfast programs and expand weekend, summer and vacation feeding programs. Currently, one in five children in America live in a household without enough food.
"I am overjoyed to witness Hunger Is making a difference on a local level by awarding over $4.6 million in grants to provide more breakfasts to children in need. I'm so happy to help raise attention and start conversations about the critical issue of childhood hunger in America," Davis said in a statement to ET. "I was one of the millions of children who went to school hungry every day. I am proud to support an organization that is giving children the fuel that they need to succeed."
"It's like a wildfire. It's growing," said Davis, who experienced the struggle of childhood hunger firsthand while growing up in abject poverty in Rhode Island. "It's affecting change. The sheer fact that it's raised this much money in this short span of time means that, obviously, it's something that people care about. And that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to rally the church to be on board with a vision. But, obviously, this has pushed a button."
"The awareness of the issue should be bigger than the shame," she continued. "Listen, at the end of the day, we're all in this together, in this life together. I think that when you share your story with people who have empathy, I don't think shame can exist. I think that there's enough people out there who have the same stories as you that are not going to pass judgment on you. It is more important to affect change."
As for the advice Davis offers to kids struggling with this issue, she says to "dream big."
"Dreaming is like going to the gym for me. It's what I did every day," she explained. "Every day I tackled something. Every day, even when I had obstacles in front of me, even if it was something I could do that made me just a step closer to my dreams, I did it. It's like exercising a muscle."
She also explained how important those moments growing up when when she did eat healthily.
"Whenever I did have a good meal, I realized the impact of what that meal did for me. It made me come to life. It made me feel alive. It made me feel like a need was being fulfilled," she said. "Hunger isn't one of those needs that you can kind of forget about and put into the recesses of your mind. Everything was about fulfilling that need and when it was filled, it just felt like I could get back to my life."
See Davis' powerful new PSA for the organization below:
This is far from the only time Davis has spoken out on childhood hunger.
In 2015, the How to Get Away With Murder star told ET's Nischelle Turner that it was "a beautiful thing to live a life bigger than oneself," as she uses her star power to help combat the childhood hunger she grew up with.