In early 2014, when NBC's Today show invited its anchors to support worthy causes as part of its Shine a Light program, Carson Daly jumped at the chance. "I wanted to use all of the influence and power of the Today show and NBC News to do something good," says Daly, who hosts two of the network's shows: The Voice and Last Call with Carson Daly. When considering which charity to support, he thought of family first. "The most important thing in my life is being a father," says Daly, who has three children. "I never understood how a child could be hungry. I wanted to do something with kids and hunger."
Daly teamed up with the organization KidsGardening.org to transform 1,000 square feet of school playground in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, into a garden. "This particular area of Crown Heights is a concrete jungle. There's no green space anywhere," he says. In this urban community, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables are rare commodities.
Today, the garden at P.S. 705 and Exceed Charter School has become an outdoor classroom where kids learn the importance of nutritious eating. "When they build it, it's amazing how much more they can be convinced to like it," Daly says. "This is about growing young people into healthy big people." Families, teachers, even neighbors who don't have kids in school help tend the beds. In 2015, the school raised about $6,500 for the garden and added special plants to bring bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to the area, says Julia Parker-Dickerson of KidsGardening.org.
To date, Daly has raised more than $35,000 on CrowdRise.com to support the Brooklyn garden initiative [https://www.crowdrise.com/carson]. And his spotlight on school gardens has made a difference for other kids, too. Parker-Dickerson says Daly brought national attention to the good cause. "We've seen a lot of new projects come to fruition because of the work that Carson did." So far in 2015, the organization started new programs at schools in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Jacksonville, FL, and Jersey City, N.J.
Daly hopes to start a green movement, encouraging parents and teachers around the country to help kids dig their fruits and vegetables. "You can start a garden by filling up a pot with dirt and putting in some seeds," he says. "You don't need to be a celebrity or have a lot of money to get involved with a garden locally."