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Hungry for Change

San Diegan Jamie Pullman’s Google-inspired quest to change the world

According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, “Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger.” And as Jeffrey Sachs — director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet professor of Sustainable Development and professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University — states, “Nearly 10 million children die each year because their families, communities, and nations are too poor to sustain them.”

To counteract these staggering numbers, the United Nations initiated the Millennium Project in 2002, a series of eight development goals aimed at achieving an end to extreme poverty by 2015.

Goals 2 through 8 are as follows:

2) Achieve universal primary education; 3) Promote gender inequality and empower women; 4) Reduce child mortality; 5) Improve maternal health; 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) Ensure environmental sustainability; 8) Develop a global partnership for development.

And while these seven goals are indeed both admirable and important, goal No. 1 truly sums up the United Nations’ Millennium Project: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

But how exactly can we eradicate extreme poverty and hunger? San Diegan Jamie Pullman, a “social entrepreneur” living in Little Italy, may just have found an answer. Pullman is the mind behind Hungry for Change, a project aimed at helping to end global poverty.

Pullman explains that through Hungry for Change, spare change from every participant’s bank card purchase automatically provides a school-based meal for a hungry child in the developing world, thus making giving automatic, effortless, and sustainable. Like Bank of America's Keep the Change program, with every participating bank card purchase made, the purchase amount is rounded up to the nearest dollar and change is automatically transferred to your personal savings account. Through Hungry for Change, however, your change will instead be funneled to an account — to be used as loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world, whose profits will be used to provide school lunches for starving children.

Not a bad plan, huh? So how exactly did Pullman come up with such an idea? Last year, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, Google committed $10 million to “Project 10 to the 100th, “a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible.” The plan was simple. Through October 20, 2008, people across the country submitted their ideas for how to change the world.

Google employees narrowed those ideas into a list of 100, and on March 17, the public will be able to vote on that list. An advisory board will review the top 20 vote getters and select five winners in early April.

Google’s project, aimed at helping “as many people as possible,” caught the eye of Lisa Powell-Graham, a friend of Pullman’s from the East Coast. “When Lisa heard about the idea she immediately called me to let me know about it,” says Pullman.

Project 10 to the 100th has five main criteria. “Reach: How many people would this idea affect? Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need? Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two? Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea? Longevity: How long will the idea's impact last?”

With those in mind, Pullman went to work crafting an idea. “I was trying to figure out how to make giving effortless. I wanted something that, even if people didn’t care, they could still give.” After a few days of thinking, Pullman had his concept, but for one problem: “I couldn’t figure out what to call it. Then one night I was sitting out on my balcony, having a glass of wine, and it just hit me: ‘Hungry for Change,’” he says.

The beauty of Pullman’s idea is that it’s “a way for people to contribute without interrupting or affecting their lives,” he says. Pullman submitted the proposition in October and awaits the results. Still, he’s not waiting around for something to happen.

“Google’s 10 to the 100th would really be the icing on the cake, but we’re still working to get this idea into the hands of someone who could bring it to life,” he says. After submitting his idea to Google, Pullman assembled a team to complete the application. They quickly made a video (posted on YouTube), and created a Facebook group to spread the word.

“We’re a few degrees away from getting some important people involved with the project,” Pullman says. “It’s just too important of an issue to be ignored.” He hopes to be able to work in the future with humanitarian groups such as Endeavor or Ashoka on making the idea of “Hungry for Change” a reality.

As for now, Pullman continues to work on implementing his plan and awaits the vote for Google’s 10 to the 100th. Voting begins March 17 and the time slot to vote will be short. Winners will be announced Win or lose, Pullman knows “Hungry for Change” can really make a difference someday.

“It's one thing to increase awareness about a problem; it’s another thing to do something about it. The United Nations set forth goals aimed at ending extreme poverty; we have to make sure we achieve them.”

Voting for Google’s 10 to the 100th is March 17 and will take place at project10tothe100.com.

The “Hungry for Change” Facebook group can be reached at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/?m=ed6ae9f3.