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 Hunger Free America. Joel is also the author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America? , the definitive and most well-reviewed book on American hunger of the last decade. Seven Stories Press will publish his second book, America We Need to Talk: a Self Help Book for the Nation, in Fall 2016.
Joel is a dynamic and much-requested keynote speaker. He has delivered hundreds of speeches in more than 37 states, from Maine to Alaska, and in five countries on four continents. 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 has called him “the darling of hunger fighters everywhere.”
Joel is also featured routinely in national and international media, appearing on, or quoted in, such media outlets as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Up with Chris Hayes and All in with Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, CNN, Fox News, the NBC Evening News, Fox Business Network, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, National Public Radio, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera America, BET.com, the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, and other news organizations around the world in countries as diverse as Mexico, Germany, and Korea.
Joel currently leads Hunger Free America, formerly known as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Joining the organization in 2001, Joel has grown the nonprofit into a multi-million-dollar, respected national champion for Americans struggling to obtain nutritious food. Hunger Free America is building a nonpartisan grassroots movement coast-to-coast to enact the economic policies and programs needed to finally solve the problem of domestic hunger. Operating on the philosophy, “Ending hunger lifts us all,” Joel and his team advocate for systemic change across the country, seeking higher wages, more living wage jobs, and a stronger nutrition safety net. The group also manages AmeriCorps*VISTA national service projects in 29 states and the USDA National Hunger Hotline, which provides callers the tools they need to obtain government and private food resources close to home. Joel is recognized as a powerful voice arguing for skilled volunteerism and has led his organization to establish a nationwide volunteer matching website, allowing people to best use their special skills like accounting, web design, or fundraising to help local soup kitchens and food pantries beyond packing cans or serving food.
Prominent Americans and reviewers praised All You Can Eat. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said: “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.” Playboy.com remarked, “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.” 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.”
Joel has also appeared on-camera in three documentaries. 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 in April 2012. The third, A Place at the Table, produced by Participant Films, directed by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, and featuring celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and in theaters in 2013.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, Joel 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, Joel 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 the agency, 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.
Joel has published widely on the topics of hunger, national and community service, and grassroots community partnerships. These include papers 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 when he was 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, Joel now resides in Brooklyn. He is the past winner of the U.S. 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. Joel also serves on the board of New York City’s Human Services Council.