Viola Davis Wants to Help Food-Poor Kids: ‘Growing Up With Hunger Was My Biggest Source of Shame’

Childhood hunger hits close to home for Viola Davis.

The Oscar winner, 55, who grew up in poverty, is working with No Kid Hungry to bring awareness to the hunger crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was an issue before COVID," she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "It’s just that stakes are much higher now because people have been out of work and challenged in terms of their finances, their house, everything. Our scourge is childhood hunger. Food banks that were designated to serve maybe 200 families are now serving 600."

The program's 2020 report, The Longest Summer: Childhood Hunger In The Wake of Coronavirus, found that half of American families are living with hunger and the numbers are worse among Black and Latinx people. "When all your money goes towards your rent, you don't have anything leftover or you never had it to begin with," Davis says. "It's not just the scourge of kids who are growing up in poverty, it's also the working poor. We have a problem."





Now the actress is teaching her daughter Genesis, 10, with her husband Julius Tennon, the importance of self-empowerment. "I encourage her to use any source of expression, whether it’s TikTok, painting, taking pictures," Davis adds. "I said, 'Anything about yourself, even the things that you don’t think people will love about you, all of it makes up your beauty.' I don’t want her to grow up with any shame."

For more of Davis' exclusive interview, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

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