“There’s no hunger in my community!”



By Ed Nicholson

Ever heard that?  I have.
My group’s "day job" is working with managers in the 100 U.S. communities where Tyson Foods has significant operations to engage them in activities in their communities.  A central component of our strategy is to get them involved in hunger relief efforts.
Way too often we hear the opinion expressed from our folks that hunger is not a significant challenge in their communities.  Way too often it’s from people who are quite caring, connected and involved in their communities.  The problem is simply that they’re not connected to hunger.  When we’re able to involve them with groups who can open their eyes to the hunger in their hometowns, they invariably become enthusiastic hunger fighters. Once they’re engaged, they’re also much more open to donating.
This is happening in communities all across America.  We desperately need people in these communities on our side in crafting sustainable solutions to hunger in our country. 
My point:  Unless the hunger community can come up with better ways to connect stakeholders–and connect them locally–we’re going to be swimming upstream with all of the well-constructed strategies, hard work, and resources that are currently being committed to ending hunger.  As an example, if a Congressman’s constituents don’t believe hunger is a significant problem in their own community, how are you going to get them to prioritize resources toward hunger relief when education, healthcare, and infrastructure (not to mention tax reduction) are all clamoring for those same resources?  Most in Congress, though they like to think globally, consistently vote locally.  
The problem is, we’re so close to the issue, we don’t understand how others can’t perceive its gravity.  We believe describing the problem will connect people.  As long as people believe hunger is something that doesn’t exist in their own community, all the rational description in the world won’t work.
What tactics do you use to educate and engage stakeholders?

6 Replies to ““There’s no hunger in my community!””

  1. John

     Seems to me the key to getting potential stakeholders’ attention is through media outreach. Fewer stats, more stories. Enlist the aid of print and broadcast media to tell those stories. Be sure to tell stories showing the new face of hunger. The woman with a degree who lost her job. The parents working two jobs. The laid off mid level executive and his family.

    Without broadcast media, we’re only preaching to the choir. We need to reach the unconverted and unconvinced.

  2. Gayle Keck

    One of my big goals in my work with the San Francisco Food Bank is to expand the circle of stakeholders who care about hunger issues. In our area, many people are food advocates – fighting for quality local, organic, artisinal and fair-trade foods – but are less aware that 150,000 people in San Francisco face hunger every day. Figuring out ways to create cross-over opportunities is key. Our Hunger Challenge (http://www.hungerchallenge.com) has done that very successfully, building awareness and media coverage in the food blogging community. Tyson has been a key partner in the Hunger Challenge, and we thank you – particularly for your new media expertise!

  3. Ed Nicholson

    Thanks, Eric and Debra

    In our experience, actually involving our team members–getting them to do something is the most effective way to get them educated and engaged in an ongoing way.   We have various tactical ways of getting that accomplished, but it always helps when there’s a hunger relief organization in the community that’s enthusiastic about having our team members as involved stakeholders. That’s usually–but not always–the case.  Believe it or not, there are a few groups who want to see us donate, but would just prefer we not get otherwise involved.
    A central component of our hunger relief strategy is getting our people engaged in the issue. With more than 100K Tyson employees in the U.S., we believe if we can get 10% actually involved, that can have an impact that exceeds the in-kind donations we make. 
    My proposition to the hunger community–and that includes all of us who care about the issue–is to continually strive for more effective ways to engage as many as possible. And as you suggested in your very good blog post, Debra, once you achieve the engagement, the commitment and  resources will follow.


  4. Debra Askanase

    Interesting post and challenge! I might reframe this from "unless the hunger community can come up with better ways to connect stakeholders." I’m guessing that they may not have the most integrated social media or outreach strategies, but that doesn’t seem to be the main issue. The main issue, as I read it in your post, is that the operations managers themselves are acting as the gatekeepers to campaign success.

    I’m sure you’ve thought of it- but the people that actually work at the Tyson Foods plants are your biggest assets. They live in the community and have known people there all their lives. The managers may not be aware of hunger issues, but I’m guessing the line workers and other employees do. My advice is not to let the managers be the stumbling block or gatekeepers – go right to the employees and involve them in the campaign. Get them signed up to an online group where they can share information, brainstorm, and begin to utilize their local ties to connect locally to hunger relief organizations, hungry families in the area, churches and synagogues, etc. At the same time, find hunger organizations that are more than willing to make presentations to the employees. Better yet, ask the employees in the plants to bring in the organizations that they personally have ties with. Then, employee/manager/nonprofits can create some interesting and exciting campaigns together. This is stakeholder involvement from the Tyson Foods side of the equation.

    Sometimes we need to educate people, but the best way to do it is not by giving information. In this case, it’s about utilizing assets you already have (employees and their local ties) to educate the operations managers.

    I’d love to hear if you decide to go this route. Keep us posted!

    Debra Askanase



  5. Eric Herboso

     This is a recurring problem that I run into at least once every couple of weeks on a personal basis, and who-knows-how-many-times on the strength.org website.  Over at the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry blog, we combat this by trying to use a combination of emotional, statistical, and psychological appeals.

    Citing stats works for some people, and so we liberally pepper the headings on our site w/ facts. But most people respond better to hearing actual stories. Videos like the one we did recently on teachers dealing with child hunger really do make an impact.

    Also, it helps to reach out to an audience that may not already be associated with hunger as a cause. Our #SOSFood Twitter chats brings together a diverse group of foodie bloggers, many of whom were not aware of the hunger issue prior to participating. By bringing them together for an event they enjoy, and then making sure those present are aware of the hunger issue and what they can do to help stop it, you can really reach an audience that may not pay attention to a billboard or commercial. Because it’s an event they want to be at, they’re much more receptive at hearing the message.

    I’d certainly be interested in hearing other ideas, though. What does everyone else think?

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