Actor Jeff Bridges has played many roles in his 50-year acting career. His most iconic was "the Dude" in the Coen Brothers' cult classic, "The Big Lebowski," while his portrayal of a down-and-out country singer in "Crazy Heart" earned him his first Academy Award.
Off the big screen, however, Bridges has another role as spokesman for Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign. The goal of the campaign is to educate children and their families who rely on free and reduced-price meals during the school year about the free meal programs available to them when school gets out for the summer.
"Top Line" had a chance to catch up with Bridges while he was at a Northern Virginia elementary school for the kick-off of the Virginia launch of the No Kid Hungry campaign. Joining him at the event were Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and a cast of vegetable puppets that helped entertain and educate the kids in the audience.
Unlike many advocates who come to Washington in search of more federal funds, Bridges' noted that the No Kid Hungry campaign "is not about getting more funds for these programs, it’s really about making people aware of these programs in the first place. And we're letting folks know that these programs are available and to make sure that the folks have access to them, and especially during these summer months when school is out. And a lot of kids who are struggling with hunger depend on school to get their nutrition."
Moreover, Bridges' stressed, "what a lot of people don't know is that those meals are supplied, that the government has a bipartisanly supported programs in place. And here in Virginia, if folks want to know where those meal sites are, they can call 211 and find out where they are and how to get there."
He also called the battle against childhood obesity and childhood hunger "the flipside of the same coin, really. I was kind of shocked when I started being involved in this program. … When I was in schools, we had cafeterias, and in the cafeterias there was refrigerators and stoves and these kinds of things. But that's kind of rare these days," he said. "Most of the food is kind of shipped in and the food is not as nutritious as it might be, and kids get used to eating, you know, stuff that's not good for them. And that's the kind of stuff they look for after school and, you know, it ends up making you obese."
So what would "The Dude" think of all of this?
"I can tell you that the Dude is very food conscious," said Bridges. "He enjoys broccoli. … He's an asparagus fan."
As for those White Russians he made with fatty half and half milk, "He's off that now."
Nowadays, said Bridges, "he prefers his Russians clear."