viola davis

Honoree Viola Davis speaks onstage at 2014 Variety Power of Women presented by Lifetime at Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons on October 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California

*Viola Davis told of her own story of growing up in abject poverty while being recognized at Variety’s recent Power of Women event for her work with the Hunger Is campaign.

“I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and I did everything to get food,” shared the 41-year-old two-time Oscar nominee and star of “How to Get Away with Murder.”

“I have stolen for food,” added the mother of one. “I have jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame.”

Her dark childhood caused her involvement with Hunger Is, which fights childhood hunger.

“I didn’t decide to join the Hunger Is campaign to save the world,” Davis said. “I didn’t. I set out to save myself. It has been the joy of my life to be able to start this campaign and know that that little girl with the ponytail and all the children like her — 17 million, 21 families in this country that have to be in food assistance programs — that all that can be eradicated. They can go about their business of being who they are and not sit in front of an SAT like I did, falling asleep because I was hungry. And not befriending people just because they know their mother makes banana bread after school. And jumping in trash bins. No one’s childhood should be spent like that.”

In Variety’s cover story, Davis said, “I always say that the little girl who is hungry is always with me. I feel like why not use any kind of power I have to serve. There’s a famous saying that ‘to serve is to love.’ I don’t want my tombstone to just say I was a series regular and Oscar nominee.”

Watch Davis’ speech below: