By Susan Brockway
My position at Tyson allows me the privilege of working with food banks, agencies and hunger advocates all over the United States. My company has a major focus on hunger relief, but we are only one company. There are hundreds just like mine who also see the need to provide time, talent and treasure. Yet it is still not enough.
A day does not go by that I do not talk to three or four groups who collectively are trying to feed millions of individuals and families who are accessing services. And the number of those at risk continues to rise. At some locations, there is an increase of more than 70% over last year, with more funding cuts, less dollars available for operations and simply less food.
I have also had the honor of working directly for agencies who provide services for the homeless and hungry, and am now a proud board member of a food bank in Arkansas. My food bank suffers from the same condition of many agencies and groups who work tirelessly to advocate and provide services. I would like to title this condition, IAMNOTWORHTYITIS. I have given this quite a bit of thought and I know it will draw some healthy conversation, so I am going to knock this one out of the park and get people thinking.
Through my various careers, I’ve attended a number of public presentations for CDBG dollars, other state and federal dollars being administered in communities; I’ve worked with FEMA, HUD and private foundations. I would like to wag a finger at all of us in the hunger relief community for the way we approach the need for resources.
In my role as a community relations manager, if I’m working for economic development, I have no difficulty getting people with money to a cocktail party, dinner or a networking event in the middle of the day and during the evenings. I am on both sides of the line as a corporate funder and a non-profit advocate so I have seen how successful business groups are in “selling their message”, obtaining millions of dollars in grants, revenues from local municipalities and foundations.
On the other hand, as advocates for those in crisis of not eating, we can’t seem to step up to the plate and sell the mission and need for more money, food and programs. Hunger is not sexy. It is not as easy to get four executives to a peanut butter and jelly lunch at a Boys and Girls Club, so they can tour a facility and understand the need for more dollars to feed OUR children; not children in another country…….children that live in our neighborhoods. I have no difficulty however getting four people on a golf cart to discuss business partnerships and how it is important to work together to make the community better when economic development is concerned. Easy sell, easy day, and great networking.
In my non-profit work, I am also guilty of not raising the roof and using every resource available, which includes board members, customers and agencies of my own food bank, and simply not standing for the status quo.
Simply stated, we have resources that are underused and the comments usually go towards “that won’t work”. Well, what we are doing is not working either, so what do we have to lose? I want to hear from board members, agencies and others; let’s start to work together and move some resources towards those we are helping. To get in the game, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and stand up. Are you willing? I think you are, so let’s start today.