Dean Dixon, AP/ConAgra
The band invited The Boot to join them Tuesday (Nov. 13) for a visit to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in Nashville, as they helped a group of local Girl Scouts load weekend backpacks with food for hungry schoolchildren in and around Music City. As parents themselves, the problem of child hunger hits home with each of the group's members.
"What if one of our kids were hungry and didn't know on a weekend how they were going to make it Sunday night with food over the weekend? We just don't even think about that," Karen Fairchild tells The Boot. "That should not be happening in this country." Karen is mom to Elijah, 2 1/2, with husband and fellow LBT member Jimi Westbook.
"The fact that one in five kids are hungry, that's crazy," says Kimberly Schlapman, whose daughter, Daisy is 5. "You look at all we have and that we waste so much, but there are one in five little kiddos going hungry? Seventeen million kids in our country."
The group's Phillip Sweet, whose daughter, Penelopi, is 4 1/2, adds, "It's one of the most important things we can be doing for our children and the future of our country. Those children are our future and we should be investing our energy not only in their education but in other things."
With their ever-increasing professional profile, the group is called on to support numerous causes, but along with nourishing the bodies of young people, they want their minds to be creatively fueled as well.
"You can't learn or thrive, you can't be a great songwriter, you can't play guitar if you're hungry," explains Karen. "For us, the foundation of loving someone is feeding them."
The foursome first joined with ConAgra Foods in 2011, and performed the song, "Here's Hope" on the ACM Awards telecast earlier this year, to draw attention to ConAgra's partnership with Feeding America, which has, to date, helped collect more than 302 million pounds of food and invested more than $37 million to combat child hunger since 1993.
In terms of addressing the issue with her own daughter, Kimberly explains, "It's hard for children to understand hunger. It's hard for me to understand being hungry. I mean, I might think I'm hungry in the afternoon, but I'm not hungry. For my little girl, she's at school, so I can say, 'One in five children are hungry. So that means, out of your friends, there probably a few in your class who are hungry and we don't even know about it. So, I think it's important for kids to say, 'Wow, there could be somebody in my classroom that didn't know what they were going to do all weekend for their food.'"
The release of their critically-acclaimed album, Tornado, their first No. 1 hit, "Pontoon," and the CMA awards earlier this month are just a few of the fruits of the group's labors that have helped 2012 become a year of great thanksgiving. With their own headlining tour and the just-announced trek with Keith Urban, 2013 is poised to be an even bigger year for the band, yet giving back remains uppermost in their minds.
"Things like this, and how you impact people's lives, those are the things that mean the most out of it all," notes Jimi.
On the subject of Thanksgiving dinner, earlier this year, Kimberly debuted her GAC cooking show, "Kimberly's Simply Southern," which will celebrate the holiday this weekend as she learns how to safely deep-fry a turkey with a Cajun twist. The episode, which will also feature Steel Magnolia's Meghan Linsey, premieres Saturday (Nov. 17) at 1:00 PM ET on GAC.
And should Kimberly run short of ideas in the kitchen, she needn't worry. One of her bandmates is forever willing to lend a hand.
"I always find myself texting her pictures and ideas saying, 'Why don't you make this so we can all enjoy it?'" says Karen.
"She texted me some brussels sprouts the other day and said, 'Make this for the show next year,'" Kimberly says with a laugh.
Watch Little Big Town's 'Tornado' Video