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Jeff Bridges: Hungry for Change

The veteran actor talks about his drive to feed millions of hungry children -- plus his approach to acting, fitness, and staying balanced.

Jeff Bridges' Recent Movies

The actor's new role as spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry Campaign is one of several high-profile parts he's played in the past year. Last March, he won an Academy Award for his role as the washed-up country singer and songwriter Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Though he'd been nominated for an Oscar for four previous films, this was the first time he took home the golden statue. And in December, not one, but two big-budget Jeff Bridges films premiered.

In True Grit, a remake of the classic Western, Bridges reprises the role of Rooster Cogburn, an aging marshal who helps a young girl track down her father's killer. Bridges has some big boots to fill in this one: John Wayne earned an Oscar for the part in the 1969 original. For Tron: Legacy, Bridges trades the dusty Old West for a futuristic digital landscape. In this sequel to 1982's Tron, Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a video game designer who has been trapped for years in a computer-generated world. Flynn is reunited with his son, Sam, and the two of them fight their way across the digital world from which both are desperate to escape.

While his two new movies are set in the past and the future, Bridges is focusing much of his starpower on the present, on kids who do not get enough to eat.

When Bridges first got involved in the cause, he concentrated on hunger overseas because "the U.S. had hunger pretty well handled," he says. "Then, all of the safety nets started to be underfunded. Now, we have homes that are food insecure, homes where people aren't sure where their next nutritional meal is coming from."

Hungry Children in America

In recent years, the recession has seen the numbers of hungry children swell. In 2009, more than 17 million households were at risk of not having enough food. That's up from nearly 12 million in 2007, and double the number in 2000, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

"To end hunger, there needs to be political will," Bridges insists. In particular, he proudly points to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which passed the Senate unanimously and the House 264–157 last year. President Barack Obama signed the bill just before Christmas. The new law will expand eligibility for free and reduced-price meals in schools as well as provide additional funding to make those meals healthier. It is the first time in 30 years that the federal government has increased spending on child nutrition efforts.

He has big hopes that President Obama will continue to exert enough leverage to make a real difference. "The president declared there would be an end to hunger by 2015 [during the 2008 presidential campaign]," says Bridges, who considers Barack Obama one of his heroes because of his stand against childhood hunger. "This is from a guy who gets it, someone who was raised on food stamps himself."

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