Supermodel Karolína Kurková is certainly accustomed to a world in which looks matter. But when it comes to hunger, appearances can often be deceiving. Food insecurity—or inconsistent access to nutritious food—"isn't always visible," Kurková says. "It's an affliction someone might have and you wouldn't necessarily know it. Hunger has so much to do with a sense of pride and dignity, its victims might not want to admit they're suffering." Nevertheless, Kurková notes, nearly one in six Americans has a difficult time finding adequate nourishment, and that number rises precipitously in impoverished populations. Because of cutbacks in funding for federal agencies such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), widely known for its food stamps, many people rely on organizations like Feeding America, which delivers meals to more than 46 million Americans a year.
When, and why, did you decide to focus your charitable efforts on combating hunger?
"Being in the fashion industry, I've had the opportunity to travel around the world since I was 15. Over the years I've witnessed many people struggling to find food, especially in developing countries. Last year, when I was asked to volunteer at a food bank in New York City, I realized that taking action against hunger is something we all can, and should, initiate in our own communities."
What in particular struck you about that experience?
"There's a preconception about what hunger looks like and who suffers from it. But at the food banks I saw young people, seniors, couples with children—every color and ethnicity."
Your son, Tobin, is now 6 years old. How has being a mother affected the way you relate to the issue?
"Hunger touches millions of children across the United States. As a mother, I hear a lot of 'Mommy, I want candy!' But imagine if instead of candy, your child simply wants more food. To hear a parent having to say, 'Oh, baby, I can't give you more chicken, we don't have any more food' is heartbreaking."
And without adequate nutrition, that child struggles in innumerable ways.
"That's right. How can we expect a child to learn when he or she is hungry? And it isn't just a matter of calories. We have to make sure children have access to nutritious meals so they can succeed at school and have a better life."
For more features like this, pick up the September issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.