Actress Leighton Meester Takes Her Feeding America Partnership to Heart

For the Gossip Girl star, life wasn't always headbands and Met steps. Leighton Meester explains how she struggled with food insecurity and why she's partnering with Feeding America.

Leighton Meester and Adam Brody volunteer at Feeding America's Summer Hunger Awareness event At Para Los Ninos in Los Angeles on June 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.Araya Diaz/Getty Images

Leighton Meester rose to fame playing Blair Waldorf, the queen bee at Constance Billard School on the CW’s Gossip Girl. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, Blair enjoys all luxury life has to offer—including macarons flown in from France.

Growing Up with Food Insecurity

Despite this decadence, Leighton’s life growing up was much different than Blair’s. She explains that she and her family regularly relied on food stamps to put dinner on the table.

“There were times when we had nothing in the kitchen to eat for dinner, or we had to put things back on the shelf at the store because we couldn’t afford it at checkout,” she says. “There were high and low times. I felt guilty about treats and meals, and would ask if we had enough money to pay for it.”

Toh Pull Quote Affecting Others Meester

Even when she was fortunate enough to attend private school, Leighton recalls that “during that time our family still struggled.” She notes that just because a family may seem to have it together on the outside, doesn’t mean that they aren’t fighting to make ends meet.

The assumption that people who use food banks are not hardworking is a myth, Leighton says; in fact, the opposite is often true. “It may be affecting someone closer than you think,” she says.

Partnering with Feeding America

Now, Leighton combines her personal experience and her talent to take on the role of ambassador for Feeding America.

Working to promote the nonprofit, Leighton explains that she’s continued to learn about food insecurity beyond her personal experience. Leighton was also surprised to learn how much food is wasted. “That’s why it’s amazing that Feeding America helps to bring food and produce that would otherwise be thrown away to pantries and shelters.”

Her advice to families who are experiencing food insecurity is to be willing to speak about it openly, in hopes that doing so will help “demystify and destigmatize the face of hunger or food insecurity.” The result, she says, may be finding help and support in surprising ways.

Food banks are doing what they can to fight hunger in the face of the pandemic, but they need help. Want to know what you can do? Visit feedingamerica.org/covid19 to learn more about Feeding America’s pandemic response, and find a food bank near you.

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Nan Bialek
When she was in fourth grade, a local newspaper published one of Nan’s stories and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Today, as a freelancer, she writes features and website content about inspiring people who are trying to change the world. When she’s not telling their stories, Nan enjoys getting her hands dirty in the garden, reading novels and hunting for quirky vintage décor.
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