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Scarlett Johansson Feeds Hungry Children

2009 WebMD Health Hero Scarlett Johansson is on a mission to feed hungry kids for a very personal reason. She used to be one of them.

Scarlett Blesses Blessings in a Backpack continued...

"I think, especially now, a lot of people are struggling financially, and a lot of kids don't know where their next meal is coming from," says the Golden Globe-nominated actor and current face of Dolce & Gabbana ads. "They see their parents trying to scrape together money or welfare or food stamps for meals. For parents to have some relief and know their kids are fed for those extra two days of the week makes a huge difference."

Johansson, who is a recipient of the 2009 WebMD Health Hero Award in recognition of her dedication to feeding in-need children throughout the nation, thinks volunteering with Blessings in a Backpack is a particularly good way for parents to teach their children the importance of serving their communities.

"Kids love to know that they're helping other kids," she says. "It's nice to be able to explain to them that, hey, something we don't really think about -- like when your friends come over on Saturday and we have a barbecue -- is really important to someone else. Not everybody's as fortunate as we are."

Johansson, who will be 25 on Nov. 22, began working with USA Harvest in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when she sought out a charity working in the storm-ravaged Delta. She knew exactly what she wanted. "I was looking for a nongovernmental program that had low administrative costs that I could help with disaster relief," she says. "One of the first things people think about in times of disaster is 'How am I going to feed my family?'"

When she researched USA Harvest, Johansson at first couldn't believe what she learned. The organization, which gathers surplus food donated by restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets and delivers it to local food banks, spends none of the donations it receives on administrative costs.
"I thought, God, this is impossible! It's all-volunteer? How do they do it?"

Scarlett Johansson and Hurricane Katrina

Johansson soon saw firsthand how it worked in New Orleans, where she went with Curtis to the Made With Love Café & Grill in St. Bernard Parish. Located in the parking lot of an off-track betting parlor, the café was a project of Emergency Communities, an organization that provides community-based disaster relief.

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