Alison Sweeney has a plum hosting gig (The Biggest Loser) and a role on a long-running soap (Days of Our Lives), but neither brings her as much joy as the work she does with Feeding America, the country's leading non-profit hunger-relief charity. "I was introduced to Feeding America through Biggest Loser, and I've been lucky and so proud to work with them," Sweeney tells TVGuide.com. "It's such a great organization and they show what a big difference we can all make in people's lives just with our time." Sweeney recently hosted the Hallmark Celebri-Tree Holiday Open House benefiting Feeding America at her L.A. home and tells us more about the event and how we can all contribute to the cause.
TVGuide.com: How did the event go?
Alison Sweeney: It went really, really well. I think they were really happy, which is awesome. I was really happy to do it and we had some great people there. I think everybody was really happy to be part of it, so it was really fun.
TVGuide.com: Items from the event will be auctioned off on Clothes Off Our Back through Dec. 15 to benefit Feeding America. What are some things people can bid for?
Sweeney: Hallmark donated a bunch of personalized ornaments. Celebrities autographed them and made them fun. We have a Hallmark recordable storybook. We picked a story, The Night Before Christmas, and we got celebrities to do a voice greeting on them. [We also had] recordable greeting cards, Christmas cards. People autographed them. Denise Richards made one, Lisa Rinna, some of my friends from daytime, like Gale Gering. They donated their time and helped decorate and autograph. Everyone also brought canned goods and dried goods.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the hunger-relief cause resonates more with the holidays upon us?
Sweeney: It does. It's funny when I talk about Feeding America, because people think about it during the holidays, but this is an issue we have to deal with year-round. But it's absolutely right that the issue is at the forefront even more during the holidays. People are more sensitive to it, and people have more time to participate and help. There are a lot more volunteers, and we want to encourage that. That's what I love about Feeding America. It's not just about the dollars, as important as money is. It allows people who can't donate a lot to make a big difference [by] volunteering at food banks or donating canned goods or whatever little you can donate. Every dollar makes a big difference.
TVGuide.com: What's a key fact about hunger that people need to know?
Sweeney: Recent studies show one in every four children in America fights hunger. That's a pretty staggering number. One of every eight Americans fights hunger. For the numbers to go very high is very scary, and I think that's something people don't think about. They're such a stereotype to people fighting hunger. I think [about] 20 percent of people fighting hunger are homeless. It's much more often people who are working two jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.
TVGuide.com: What are some of Feeding America's other initiatives?
Sweeney: One is the Backpack Program that Feeding America has done to help children who are fighting hunger. They provide backpacks with food for children to take home on the weekends or over school vacations. I think it's vital to note that it's not that [these families] want charity, but they don't have the means to feed their family. They're fighting hard and working hard to do what they can, and they just need a little help. That's where Feeding America has been able to step in and provide groceries for people who need it.
TVGuide.com: You have two children. How important is this to you from a mom's perspective?
Sweeney: As a mom, it's so important to be able to provide for my children. It's one of the basic necessities in life. You realize as a parent it's your responsibility to provide your child with basic needs, basic nutrition, a roof over their heads. I just can't imagine what it would feel like to be a parent and to know your child is hungry. I just cannot imagine what that must feel like for them. Obviously, you want to give them the best. You want to provide them with everything, and you do what you can. I'm glad we can do what we can to help.
TVGuide.com: What else can people do to help out?
Sweeney: People can go to the Feeding America website, and you can obviously donate through there if you have that ability. But most importantly, donate your time. Find the food bank near you. Go to your kid's school and teach kids about how important it is to give back to your community. Things like that can help you, help others, help your soul and the environment. It's in the spirit of the holidays.