Image of Jordan Howlett on the red carpet at the BoxLunch Holiday Gala 2023. He is a Black man with short black hair and a black beard. He's wearing a grey jacket over a navy blue turtleneck with a silver cross pendant around his neck. He's smiling at the camera and standing in front of a step and repeat that has the BoxLunch and Feeding America logos on it.

Influencer Jordan Howlett Reveals Personal Connection to Feeding America’s Mission at BoxLunch Holiday Gala

Last week, celebrities and influencers came together to support Feeding America at BoxLunch’s annual Holiday Gala. It was an entertaining evening that maintained a sense of geeky fun even as attendees were encouraged to take part in the fight against hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. For some on the red carpet, that fight was more personal than for others.

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Influencer Jordan Howlett, whom you may know from his endearing enthusiasm about Olive Garden cheese graters on TikTok, was in attendance as a member of the BoxLunch Collective, a group of social media influencers aligned with Feeding America’s mission, who use their platforms to spread awareness and inspire their followers to volunteer time and resources to help feed people in need in their communities.

When I spoke with him on the red carpet, Howlett revealed his personal connection to the work that Feeding America does. When I asked him what drew him to getting involved with the BoxLunch Collective and attending the gala, he said:

“Honestly, just the idea of giving back, honestly anything charitable, helping with food insecurity, those are things that speak to me. It’s something I’ve definitely experienced before with food insecurity. I really have a hope that nobody would ever experience that. It’s something I really feel strongly about. So, when I heard about this event, I was excited to come by and participate in any way I could.”

It can be easy to forget that the performers and creators we love are just regular people who’ve ended up with really cool jobs, and that those people have regular histories that sometimes include many of the hardships that you or I may have experienced, or are currently experiencing.

Image of Jennifer Polk and David Harbour standing together on stage holding a large fake $100,000 check from Harbour to Feeding America. Polk is a Black woman with short, curly dark hair wearing a strapless black jumpsuit, dangly earrings, and a thin diamond necklace. Harbour is a white man with short brown hair and a salt-and-pepper beard wearing a BoxLunch letterman jacket over a white button down and grey suit pants.
(L-R) Jennifer Polk and David Harbour (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for BoxLunch)

Chief Marketing and Digital Experience Officer of Feeding America, Jennifer Polk, also spoke with me on the red carpet and outlined ways that we “regular people” can get involved in the fight against hunger:

“The average person has an incredible amount of power. Number one, we do want them to give. Whether they choose to give in their local community, or on a national level. We’d encourage people to also invest their time by volunteering locally with a partner food bank or an agency. And most importantly, we want them to visit to find ways that they can individually advocate for policies that drive systemic change in ending hunger.”

My family and I experienced financial insecurity and food insecurity throughout my childhood. Even now, as a disabled freelance writer with a wife who’s also disabled, I sometimes don’t know if we’ll be able to afford food from month to month. Thankfully, we have a strong support network of family and friends, but many people and families don’t.

It was hugely comforting to hear Howlett simply say the words “It’s something I’ve definitely experienced before.” It was a small, matter-of-fact statement, but it meant so much. Not only is hunger and food insecurity a problem in the immediate because, well, you’re hungry, but it’s a problem psychologically and emotionally, too. It takes a toll on your self-esteem and can make you feel alone. Understanding that more people experience this than we might think not only helps assuage the personal insecurity we feel but can also inspire all of us to take the problem of food insecurity seriously.

Because it could be any one of us at any time.

(featured image: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for BoxLunch)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.