Stop, look and listen before you accuse.

6337060349_eaf1e38ce3_bSome of my good friends are posting a link to a blog story indignantly pointing to a food drive being held in a WalMart store in Ohio, to benefit fellow associates in need during the holiday season.  (The food drive was initiated by the associates at the store, not as a corporate program).   There’s a suggestion therein that this would never occur in a place that paid a “living wage.”
I’m not here to either defend or pass judgment on WalMart’s wages.  That discussion occurs in plenty of other places.
However.  Circumstances place people in need.  Those circumstances can turn on almost anyone, anywhere.
The implication that a “decent” workplace would never have employees with food insecurity is just wrong, and I might suggest dangerous for those with an interest in fighting hunger.  Using this particular situation to sling a spear at WalMart does a great disservice to everyone in the hunger movement trying to combat a myriad of misplaced stereotypes about food insecurity.
Let me repeat:  Food insecurity can be present in any workplace.
Take a close look around your own circle; at your own workplace, your friends and family, and in the places you do business.  You’ll likely be surprised to find people in real need if you dig deeply enough. Then, I might suggest, do what the associates at this WalMart store did.  Take action to help out.

Photo vastateparksstaff  Flickr Creative Commons

A good day, with great partners.

iPh LUA Chiefs 13 blog photo
Almost ten years ago, I got a call from John Tyson, who said, “There’s a guy named Dave Hannah who’s going to call you.  He has some good ideas about maybe doing some food donations. At the time, we’d been involved in hunger relief for a while, and had already done some high profile donating.   I was getting quite a few calls from folks who had “good ideas” about food donations.   Quite often these were good people, long on vision, but short on being able to execute.  So when Dave called saying he thought he could get the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins involved in some donation events, I was, well, cautious.  But sure enough, within about three weeks, we had two donation events planned with those teams.   Dave knows how to get things done, and in the time that’s passed, he’s led the creation of Lift Up America, a group of influencers from around the country, focused on creating positive change. In that time, we’ve collaborated on more than a hundred truckload donations with pro and college sports teams all around the country.

We did another Lift Up America donation with the Chiefs yesterday; the tenth we’ve done with the team. More than 60 agencies of Harvesters Community Food Network picked up most of a 30,000 pound truckload of food within about 45 minutes at Arrowhead Stadium.  Dave’s first call after talking with us for the first time was to Clark Hunt, owner of the Chiefs, who graciously and enthusiastically agreed to be part of the donation.  We were honored to have Clark on hand yesterday to MC the donation event.   Also joining were Derrick Johnson, Akeem Jordan, Kendrick Lewis and Dontari Poe, members of the (undefeated!) Chiefs team.

As an added bonus, members of the (undefeated!) Fort Osage High School football team came out and moved a bunch of boxes.

We’re honored and priveleged to be able to associate with all of these folks, including, our own team from the Tyson Olathe, Kansas distribution facility.

Time for a new and different debate on SNAP

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Food stamps.  SNAP.  Hardly anything (possibly excepting healthcare) has polarized public opinion more.  And let me just offer the disclaimer that the rest of what I’m going to say is absolutely my own perspective, not necessarily that of my employer nor my fellow Tyson Team Members..  Because, with the way things are, I’ll likely say something that’s going to aggravate just about everyone.

Recent critics of SNAP have pointed to Jason Greenslate.  He allegedly spends his time on the beach, frequently using his $200 a month SNAP allocation to buy lobster.  Other more mythical examples include the “welfare queen”   and people buying crab legs, liquor and cigarettes with SNAP benefits (the latter, of course illegal).

Then you have another Jason.  Always been a hard worker. Former Afghanistan combat veteran. Now unemployed, but searching for a job.  SNAP recipient.

For every Jason Greenslate, taking advantage of the system, there are a hundred truly hungry veteran Jasons, who desperately need our assistance. Unfortunately far, far too much emphasis is placed on the former, at the expense of the latter.  People do need this program, and kids will go hungry without it.

SNAP advocates, citing the documented low incidence of fraud and abuse in the program, typically refuse to participate in any discussion of reform. Their concern: allowing this discussion gives  the program’s critics more credibility than they deserve. The problem is, fraud and abuse do exist, albeit minor compared to true need.  And by refusing to acknowledge it, advocates create the impression they don’t know, or don’t care that it exists.

So here’s my suggestion:  Let’s fully fund SNAP. Then let’s all acknowledge it’s not perfect, roll up our sleeves, and figure out how to make it better, so that the people who don’t need it don’t get it.   Meanwhile, let’s not let folks truly in need go hungry.

Photo USDAGov–Flickr  Creative Commons

Of twerking, cats and hungry kids

Orange--ask me why I'm wearing

Ah, the interwebs.  A marvelous thing that has changed the lives of all of us.  It can feed the intellect, stimulate the senses and take us around the world.   Or it can suck us into a cultural wasteland, wherein the most banal of  subjects get enormous attention.     It’s really our own choice as to where we want to be taken–and where we want to send our friends and family members.

In case you don’t know, September is a month in which hunger issues are emphasized by a lot of different organizations.  In the last couple of years, many of these organizations have promoted using the color orange–wearing it, posting it on one’s website, adorning your avatar, etc.–to create awareness of hunger in the United States.   Those of us who associate with those organizations and the cause of hunger are spending some of our online bandwidth to encourage others to learn about and get involved in helping fight hunger.   You’ll be seeing orange appear in our social content streams. 

Want to participate?  Here’s one way:  Go to the Share Our Strength Go Orange for No Kid Hungry page.   You’ll find all sorts of fun and interesting ways you can turn your online participation into awareness.  Maybe for the rest of the month, resolve to ignore memes about twerking popstars and adorable kitties.  Help folks understand that we have a real crisis on our hands with one in five kids in our country at risk of going hungry.

Today, thanks to technology, we can conduct a free visual phone call with our cousin in Uzbekistan, order aspirins online with one click,  or check our email while sitting on the potty.   Surely we can figure out how to feed some of these kids.  Do something good today.   Go Orange. 

 

Bringing it all together

Sam'sColoringAt Tyson Foods, we joined this hunger relief movement in 2000.  Very quickly, we discovered that a lot of other brands were putting a lot more money than we’d ever have toward this cause.  But we learned a lot from our first partner, Share Our Strength, whose battle cry was, “Everyone has a strength to share.”  We learned the strength of more than 100,000 employees.  We learned that our protein products were badly needed by food banks.  We learned we could be creative and use social media to generate awareness for a cause that is far too often misunderstood.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen lots of those strengths come together, thanks to an innovative partnership with Champions for Kids, another Northwest Arkansas-based organization that’s making waves with national brands to help children’s causes around the country.
You know when you go Sam’s Club on Saturday, and they have little booths set up to let you sample food…?    Well the Tyson customer marketing group decided that maybe people already know how delicious Tyson Nuggets taste; and perhaps we could do something with that booth space to help people know a little more about the issue of hunger, and how they could get involved.  So they partnered with Champions for Kids to create the Be a Hunger Hero demo at Sam’s—as far as we can tell—the first store demo that has ever actually focused on engaging people in a cause, rather than hard-selling them on products.    They also created a web page,  www.beahungerhero.com, that lives on this blog to engage and inform folks.
If you’re in or around a Sam’s Club this weekend, go check out the Be a Hunger Hero booth.   There are things for the kids to do.    Plus if you buy a bag of nuggets (OK, yeah, we really would like to sell you something—it is, after all, how we’re ultimately able to donate), we’ll  work with Champions for Kids to donate a pound of food to hunger relief.   Check back here for more details about those donations.