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Jeff Bridges and Gov. McDonnell Visit Barcroft Elementary

(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stopped by Barcroft Elementary School today to launch a statewide anti-childhood-hunger campaign.

Kids, teachers, school officials, politicians, photographers and reporters crammed into the school’s auditorium to watch the hour-long event, which was part press conference and part school assembly. Bridges, McDonnell and Vilsack were joined on stage by representatives from the Federation of Virginia Food Banks and the non-profit group Share Our Strength. Also on stage were a pair of wise-cracking vegetable puppets.

“I’m surprised that broccoli is here today,” said Vilsack, gesturing to one of the puppets in front of the youthful crowd. “I just had him for lunch.”

The campaign — dubbed No Kid Hungry — seeks to reduce childhood hunger nationwide by connecting kids and parents with existing (but sometimes hard to find) food assistance programs. Today’s event marked the start of the campaign in Virginia, where fewer than 20 percent of eligible children are enrolled in summer nutrition programs, according to a new report.

“It’s not acceptable and we need to do much, much better,” McDonnell said of childhood hunger in the state. “There’s plenty of money that’s in these programs at the federal government level… we just need your help, you young people, to tell your parents, tell your friends about the fact that these programs are available.”

Bridges says he became the national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign to help promote a “big picture” solution to childhood hunger.

“One in four kids are hungry in this country,” Bridges said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. We have enough food, we know how to end it… I feel it’s patriotic to care about the health of our kids.”

Asked about President Obama’s pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015, Bridges conceded that it would be tough to accomplish.

“It is kind of unlikely in a way, but it’s certainly not impossible,” he said. “But goals, the purpose of a goal, is to bring attention to something. So you might fail in achieving that goal, but if you don’t even set that goal, then you’re going to have to settle for the status quo.”

More photos after the jump.

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