Inside the Fall Issue:

Tom Chapin's
'Family Tree' of Music
Keeps Growing

The Chapin Family
Hits The Road For
Two November Tributes

How the Memory of
One Little Girl Has
Made a Difference

Harry's Spirit Fuels
Run Against Hunger

Diligence and a Smile
Pay Off In a Big Way

People Are The
Key To Success
For Esperanza Unida

Fan Fare

Bill Pere

David Miller

Scott Sivakoff


Capture The Holiday
Spirit With Celebrity
Cards While Helping WHY

Community Effort
Overcomes Setbacks
To Make Multi-Purpose
Field A Reality

KIDS Program Founders
Motivate New Generation
of Hunger Fighters

Letter to the Editor

Long Island Needs
'Long Island Cares'

Harry Chapin concert

KIDS Program Founders Motivate New Generation of Hunger Fighters

by Bill Hornung

Jane Finn Levine and Larry Levine, founders of WHY's Kids Can Make A Difference (KIDS) program, chuckle at the assumptions people make about their association with Harry Chapin.

"When I first mentioned what we were doing with WHY, my kids said 'you used to tell us to turn off his music'," said Larry. While far from Chapin fans initially, the Levines' appreciation for Harry has grown as the KIDS program to educate school-aged children about hunger issues became part of WHY's mission.

KIDS provides teacher materials and learning activity ideas to engage middle- and high school students to actively participate in long-term solutions to eliminate the root causes of hunger and poverty. A teacher's guide, thrice-yearly newsletter and a website at provide a wealth of resources for teachers who want to motivate kids to take action.

KIDS was born in 1994 when the Levines were asked speak to a sixth-grade class about hunger. Jane was finishing her doctorate in nutrition education at the time, so she thought it was a great opportunity to apply some of her learning. The presentation was a rousing success, and quickly the Levines were a traveling show to 20 schools throughout New England and New York.

Jane's doctorate studies led her to an interview with Bill Ayres, who quickly enticed her and Larry to join WHY. The KIDS program eventually aligned with WHY when the Levines realized they could have more impact by teaching others how to conduct the program rather than doing it all on their own.

The first step was to create the teacher's guide, which has become the program's core. The KIDS newsletter was launched later to keep the information relevant by sharing examples of other creative ideas that teachers are using around the world.

The program has now distributed materials to nearly 4,000 schools and other venues internationally.

After running the program nearly single-handedly on a volunteer basis for seven years, the Levines say they've also learned a lot themselves:

  • Kids in middle school love to talk about the issues. "We found that the word 'fair' is particularly important to sixth-graders," Larry said. "They quickly recognize when things aren't fair."
  • Kids who face hunger themselves are often the most engaged in the program. "It helps them understand that they're not alone and their situation isn't their fault," Jane said.
  • Middle-income and affluent children are sometimes harder to reach because their families have protected them from being involved in hunger and poverty issues. "We've been disinvited by a few schools for just those reasons," Larry said. Some parents have been furious that their children are asked to attend a "hunger banquet" that recreates a typical rice meal a poor family might eat.
  • More university and post-graduate students are getting involved in KIDS. The students find the materials are an innovative way to teach about difficult social issues.
  • "Teachers see the program as an antidote to creeping consumerism among kids," Jane added. Learning about these real-life issues plays down the need for having the right brand of t-shirts and sneakers, she said.

In the end, the Levines hope the program imparts deep values in students that they keep for a lifetime. "The program has been time-consuming, but on the other side of the coin it has been a very gratifying experience," said Larry.

But the Levines are quick to point out that individual teachers who drive the program are the real heroes because they ultimately want to make a difference. "What has happened with the program is proof that there's a lot of concern," said Larry.

KIDS Offer

Teachers are encouraged to contact the KIDS program to get involved. While the program is designed for middle- and high school students, teachers are successful at engaging kids as young as third grade, the Levines said.

The program relies strictly on donations, the sale of the teacher's guide ($23 plus $6 shipping) and subscriptions to the newsletter ($9 per year). One hundred percent of the contributions and the receipts from the sale of the guide go directly to the program.

The Levines are happy to send a free newsletter issue on request by sending an email to

Visit the KIDS website at for more information about the program or to order the teacherŐs guide.

Watch for the Next Issue of Circle! on December 7th