Joel Berg is a nationally recognized leader and media spokesman in the fields of domestic hunger, food security, obesity, poverty, food-related economic development, national service, and volunteerism. He is Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. He is also author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America? , the definitive and most well-reviewed book on American hunger of the last decade.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said about the book: “Hunger is a national disgrace in America, and Joel Berg has, in a straightforward and provocative way, given all of us a framework to deal with it.” City Limits magazine wrote: “Berg’s trademark good-natured snarkiness makes this an eminently readable book that lays out the dimensions of the growing hunger epidemic, and what can be done about it.” Said Playboy.com, “Berg can be a bit of a policy wonk, but his well-considered proposals and optimism are refreshing… Here’s hoping (the President) can address the issue with Berg’s balance of rationality and passion.” The Philadelphia City Paper wrote: “Berg is adept at balancing facts with reflection, and humor with seriousness.” And Krys Boyd, a public radio host from Dallas, opined: “In all honesty, I could not put this book down after I started it … It really was a fascinating read.”
Berg is a dynamic and much-requested keynote speaker. He has delivered hundreds of speeches in more than 20 states, from Maine to Alaska. One audience member wrote, “Seeing Joel Berg speak in person is like watching the History Channel, C-Span, and Comedy Central all at once.” The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “the darling of hunger fighters everywhere.”
Berg is also featured routinely in the national and international media, having appeared on, or been quoted in, such media outlets as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Up with Chris Hayes, The Ed Show, CNN, the NBC Evening News, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, National Public Radio, die ZEIT, and the Wall Street Journal.
Berg has also appeared on-camera in three documentary films. The first film, The Apple Pushers, was directed by award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio and narrated by the actor Edward Norton. The second, Hunger Hits Home, produced by the Food Network, was broadcast nationwide beginning April 14, 2012. The third film, A Place at the Table, produced by Participant Films and directed by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in late January 2012 and is in theaters and On-Demand now across the country.
Since 2001, Berg has led the Coalition Against Hunger, which represents the more than 1,100 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City and the more than 1.5 million low-income New Yorkers who live in households that cannot afford enough food. The organization works not only to meet these residents’ immediate food needs but also to enact innovative solutions to help society move “beyond the soup kitchen” to ensure self-sufficiency for all Americans. The Coalition also manages national service projects in 31 states, from coast to coast, making its work national in scope.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, Berg served for eight years in the Clinton Administration in senior executive service positions at USDA. For two years, he acted as USDA Coordinator of Community Food Security, a new position in which he created and implemented the first-ever federal initiative to better enable faith-based and other nonprofit groups to fight hunger, bolster food security, and help low-income Americans move out of poverty.
In addition, Berg worked as USDA Coordinator of Food Recovery and Gleaning for two years, working with community groups to increase the amount of food recovered, gleaned, and distributed to hungry Americans. Also while at USDA, he served as Director of National Service, Director of Public Liaison, and as acting Director of Public Affairs and Press Secretary. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a policy analyst for the Progressive Policy Institute and as a domestic policy staff member for then President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team.
Berg has published widely on the topics of hunger, national and community service, and grassroots community partnerships, including a recent paper on what President Obama can do to improve hunger metrics in the United States and other papers on childhood hunger and poverty, obesity, and practical solutions to end hunger as a Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress. He has also published papers on creating food jobs and other topics for the Progressive Policy Institute.
A native of Rockland County, NY, and a graduate of Columbia University, Berg now resides in Brooklyn. He is the past winner of the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Superior Service (one of the department’s highest honors) and the Congressional Hunger Center’s Mickey Leland National Hunger Fighter Award.