Art of the Cart–6

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.

9 Replies to “Art of the Cart–6”

  1. Jodi Bissonnette

    As I go through my days of giving speaches or working with volunteers I hear time and again " I didn’t realize" "I thought it was only the poor who needed help or the lazy that didn’t want to work" We all know that’s not true….. It’s the middle class …. People like you and me that need the help… people who say  "I never thought I would have to go to a food pantry.’ No one can judge why . There are so many reasons for a need of all our programs ,and yet time and again the explanations seem to have to be made.  

    I think that the media needs to play a bigger part . Everyone knows that most people and corporations big and small, love to here what a great job there doing . How wonderful that there help was . I to plead guilty to this. Though I don’t do my job for a pat on the back I do have to admit that when I get a Thank you from some one it boosts my self astem. It makes me feel like I can continue to help and that maybe I make a differance.

    The challange needs to be out there . The grants need to come from those who have to help those who have not. And giving a pat on the back if that’s what it takes well lets go for it.


  2. Laura Alexander

    The need is for food assitance is greater now than we, as a generation, can remember.  I have been in this movement for 17 years.  My observations are that when the need is greatest thats when we MUST step up and ask even more.  All of us have to look at our support much like an investment potfolio and monitoring  frequesntly to insure diversity of fund and food sources.  I get it when some of us talk about we are tired… and wonder why our nation is apathetic and doesn’t end a sovable problem.  I represent a large PDO in SE Florida.  We struggle for food and funds like everyone else.  As a small food bank, maybe even more so, because we cannot benefit from costs savings that vendors offer based on the economy of scale product and purchase acquisitions.  We are not in a food rich area and it seems in our 20th year that we still are the best kept secret of our region. 

    But, That is not stopping us!  In five years we have started Kids Cafe, BackPack programs, awarded a new truck from Conagra Foods, received support from many local and national grants, partnered with the food industry and simply asked to be included and considered.  We received the gift of a facility ($1 million) in 2005 from an anonymous individual donor after two direct hits from devastaing hurricanes and we now are in a capital campaign to add 20,000 more square ft.  Does the economy scare us?  Does it stop us?   It might… but I believe…. yes I believe… that there are people who can and will give.  They care about hungry children and seniors and each other.  As an advocate in this movement and a paid staff person, it is my responsibility to ask and ask again.  This year when I was asked by a United Way review panel why they should fund Kids Cafe instead of the myriad of programs that compete for their funding, my response was because hunger is mostly a derivitive of the ills of poverty.  At Kids Cafe the children indeed are fed a hot nutritipous meal.  But they also are taught to make healthy living choices in a safe environment.  It is the power of the independent thought… the independent choice they make that frees them from the bonds of poverty.  When a poor person is empowered to make a choice not to be hungry, unhealthy, or poor….they see the world of possibilities.  It is this hope and faith that will see us through.   Trust me,  it is infectious…. Find that passion and hope again and believe that what we do MAKES A DIFFERENCE!  Communicaiton of that passion in any ecnonomy will get results.

    Now as I say this, the real change in America will come when we as a people no longer are apathetic to the Public Policy that allows 35 million of us to be hungry.  It is inexcusable for us to accept that so many of us in this nation face hunger daily.  Our country is vast and to expect  the not-for-profit and faith based sector can fix this alone without support of Public Policy is just a band-aid approach.  Historically, the industrialized countries that pass such Public Policy do not have the problems we have.  Stand up… Speak up…. your vote does count!   If you think hunger issues are not a sexy thing to fund… think again.  No one wants to think of a child going hungry.   Think collaboration…. think innovation… Find that purpose that motivates you to do this work!  

  3. Susan Sanford

    The lack of nutritious donations is a byproduct of the food industry’s efficiency.
     That’s good for the economy but doesn’t help food banks.  If every manufacturer would decide to set aside X amount of product for food banks and take the issue to heart, it would make an enormous difference.  Run an extra line; earmark X number of truckloads to go straight to food banks, and while you’re at it, make financial donations to be divided among food banks and Feeding America.  Our special programs – Kids Cafe and BackPack – draw dollars, but we have to have unrestricted operating contributions to run our programs. Let’s get rid of donor fatigue. Hunger is a symptom, not a cause.

  4. Kathy Meyers

    Hunger is an uncomfortable issue.  No one wants to believe that there are people–especially children, living in hunger in the USA.  I believe in taking the mountain to Mohammed

    * Put the Club kids in the golf cart! 

    *Instead of whale watching, take employees to a foodbank or soup kitchen to volunteer–Pepsico does it and it is a WIN WIN for everyone…great residual effect from those experiencing ‘giving back’ for the first time

    *Pressure legislators to acknowledge hunger in your state–spread the facts!

    Give credit where it’s due and don’t forget to thank the TYSONS of this world!  What in the world would we do without you?

    Thanks and good luck with this effort!

  5. John C. Wahl

    What if our major food producers each had a line on the "Newman’s Own" model, with the profits going to feed the hungry?  I know the importance of market share, and also know that I’ll kick in a few extra quarters if the product is doing some good.  Picking on Tyson, if there were a ‘Tyson feeds Tots’ line, I’d buy it if the profits were used to sponsor Kids Cafe’s or weekend hot meals at churches or schools, and would remember that Tyson was looking out for more than their corporate self-interest when I need other products as well.

  6. Randy Starck

    Why isn’t domestic hunger a more "engaging" social issue? I wonder if it’s because no one wakes up and is suddenly hungry. Hunger is a tragic by-product of other social problems, such as unexpectantly losing a job, a major illness, or a divorce that suddenly splits apart a family. Perhaps it’s more difficult for corporate America to comprehend that hunger exists and the daily challenge faced by charities in helping their clients.

  7. Judy Lanyon

    Nothing is sadder than knowing some kids only get the meals that are served at school.  That when they get home, there not only might not be an after school snack but that they may not have dinner or if they do have some food, that they will still go to bed hungry to wake up and have to wait until they can eat breakfast at school.  Weekends and holidays are long when the only thing that a person can concentrate on is the hunger pains they are experiencing.  These are not children from another country – they are children in our OWN country – our backyard, neighborhood and city.  Food pantries are having a hard time keeping enough food to help all those who need it – I didn’t say deserved it but need it for one reason or another.  The hungry kids are innocent and have no control over how their parents or guardians spend the money that should be spent for food.  Economic times are tight for everyone but we must also take care of the kids – they are the future of our country – our future lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, CEO’s and presidents.  I don’t have the answer but as a collaborative unit of idea’s a workable solution will be found – the solution may not be perfect or even solve the problem but even working toward the total solution is better than nothing.

  8. Boys & Girls Club Teresa Walch

     Boys & Girls Clubs (B&GC)  across the nation face hunger issues among thier membership on a daily basis.  B&GC partner with numerous agencies to provide nutrscious meals and snacks for members. 

    Preliminary data from 2007 annual repports indicate the following. 


    ·         1,715 non-military clubs provided meals to youth in 2007
    ·         390 (23%) of these 1,715 non-military clubs reported that they have a Kids Café
    ·         Sources of funding for the meals provided by the 1,715 non-military clubs:  (Note –clubs can have multiple sources of funding)
    o        Department of Agriculture:  642 clubs (37% of the 1,715 non-military clubs that provided meals)
    o        Local Food Bank:  546 Clubs (32% of the 1,715 non-military clubs that provided meals)
    o        Club Operating Budget:  531 Clubs (31% of the 1,715 non-military clubs that provided meals)
    o        America’s Second Harvest:  270 clubs (16% of the 1,715 non-military clubs that provided meals)
    o        Other:  682 Clubs (40% of the 1,715 non-military clubs that provided meals) – Examples of ‘Other’ sources include: schools/school districts, city, county or state government sources, local community organizations, private foundations, grocery stores, etc.)
    ·         Number of meals provided – data not yet available.  Note – 418 of the 1,715 clubs did not track the number of youth who were provided meals.  Some of the 1,297 clubs that did track the number of youth who were provided meals erroneously reported number of meals rather than number of youth.  We are currently obtaining the corrected data via Annual Report validation.
  9. Anne Wachal

    I believe there are several major issues. With the issue of raising money  for hunger  – many smaller agencies who are doing good work, do not have the resources or the knowledge to grab those people that care and yet coordinate their efforts to help us feed folks in need. Often times becasue we think that we are a non profit organization it is not "OK" for us to ask for the top dollar from grantors or donors. If we need $10,000 then ask for it and not settle for some smaller amount, although we are grateful for any size donation. But sometimes I think it is difficult for us to sell ourselves that in some weird way we don’t think we are worthy enough. Unfortunately,in the world of hunger as is with other organizations  and social issues, we do compete often times for the same funders.

    Secondly, with  the political atmosphere we have encountered as well as society in general, appathy appears to be running rampant now. We are all so involved with our own lives, the the immediate gratification with Internet, and drive thru and the hustlle and bustle of our average day we fail to recognize the vast issues of the world.

    I am not sure what the answer is frankly and perhaps we need some fresh faces and fresh ideas to guide those of us that have been in the "business" of helping people for a long time. You see, this is not just a job for many of us but a career  and a passion. For many of us, working in this field helps define who we are. I know I can safely speak for many colleagues when I say we are frusterated, worn out and question if people care anymore about each other. And then you get that one person who comes in our food pantry, and thanks you for being there, for helping them out and then your perspective changes if even for a few moments.

    Hope to hear from others.


Comments are closed.