Andrew Zimmem is a chef and author as well as creator, executive producer and host of the award-winning "Bizarre Foods" TV series. His fascination with the history of food has led him to explore more than 150 countries and made him an expert on world cuisines and cultures. He has fought off alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness and has now turned some of his energy to fighting hunger in America.
STATE LEGISLATURES: What inspired you to get involved in hunger issues?
ZIMMERN: I try to focus on issues that I think have civic possibilities for resolve, the ones that I think we all know we can't afford to let go any longer before we address them. I tend to gravitate toward issues for which a social change movement is required; I think that's where people like myself can do the most amount of heavy lifting--things like hunger issues. It seems to me that in the greatest nation in the history of the world, the fact that one in five children go to bed hungry at night is something none of us should stand for. I think we do a deplorable job in our schools of feeding our children. You can go on and on and on, but hunger-related issues, food-related issues, those are where people like me can be the most useful.
What experiences have influenced your views toward hunger?
I have a global perspective. I've seen a lot of things that work and don't work in other parts of the world. I've done a lot of myth busting in my life. Being able to use that expertise and influence to dissolve myth and to provide solutions to common issues is important.
And on a personal level, I'm a recovering addict and alcoholic and I was a homeless person for a long time. I've lived on the streets. I've panhandled. I've slept overnight in shelters. I've taken holiday meals at the Salvation Army. I understand how sprinkling a little bit of dignity and respect on human beings under desperate circumstances can restore them to where they can contribute to society. I was a mess. I now contribute to society. End of story. That kind of recovery is available for a large percentage of people who have fallen below the safety net, and I know that from personal experience.
Who are you working with in your efforts to fight hunger?
I'm willing to work with everyone who touches hunger. I think we can do the most to combat the problem through entrepreneurship. I've seen very smart business people, young business people, civic-minded business people, come up with solutions for going...