Return to Joplin

A year ago this morning, after hearing of the devastation suffered by our neighbors in Joplin, folks from several nearby Tyson Foods locations arrived on the scene to offer whatever assistance we could provide.

The scene was stunning.  Chaotic. Confusing.  The tragedy has been well-documented. Tyson Team Members spent three weeks in Joplin, with up to six teams cooking and feeding anyone who might

Yesterday, many of the same Tyson people returned to Joplin for their Unity Celebration, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the tornado.  Obviously, a much happier occasion, the event underscored the grit and positive spirit of the people of this Missouri town. While the town will bear the scars of the disaster for a long time–the loss of life and massive property damage–it’s very clear the people of Joplin are fiercely determined to bounce back a better community than ever.  Homes, schools and businesses have arisen from total devastation, with more coming up every day.

Last year’s disaster in Joplin provided part of the inspiration for our new Meals That Matter disaster response trailer.  It was an honor and a privilege to be able to roll it into Joplin for such an inspring event.

In memoriam: Sue Brockway

Many in the hunger community are already aware of the passing last week of our colleague and dear friend, Sue Brockway.  While her death was no surprise, it leaves those who knew Sue with a deep sense of loss.  To those who received the news directly from me last week, I’ll apologize for using the same words here, but I hope they summarize Sue’s life and work here at Tyson for those who might not have known her.

In my life, I’ve never known anyone who fought so hard to live—not simply remain alive, but truly enjoy the days she had on earth.  Five years ago, Sue was diagnosed with her second round of cancer, and a local oncologist, known for buoying his patients with sometimes unrealistic optimism, told her, “I think we can get you three years…”   Sue outlived his most optimistic estimate by two years, enduring weekly chemo until a few weeks ago, and missing very little work until just short of a year ago.

Sue began her career at Tyson in our Joslin, Illinois plant, near her hometown of Davenport, Iowa, where she developed a deep respect for the people who make it possible for us to stay in business: the Team Members on the line and the managers who keep the plants running.  When she came to work in our corporate headquarters, she brought that respect, and always strived to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in Tyson communities around the country.

Sue was passionate about life.  When she came to Tyson ten years ago, she immediately became enthusiastically involved in hunger relief, eventually becoming the company’s most ardent advocate for the cause.  She played a defining role in helping us engage our own Team Members in hunger relief, establishing Tyson as an organization that didn’t just write the check, but was authentically engaged.  Her legacy in this area will remain, as this issue has become a part of our corporate culture.

Sue was fiercely dedicated to principles, and held fast to her beliefs, sometimes with a stubborn streak that made her hard to put up with (I now say that with a smile).   When she set her mind to doing something, you’d best not be standing in her path.

Sue leaves an enormous group of friends and family, from all over the country.   We’ll miss her laughter, her enthusiasm and her energy.  We’ll miss her determined passion.  But her indomitable spirit will remain, to inspire us to live every single day to its fullest, and love those around us.

If you wish to honor Sue’s memory, there’s nothing you could do that would please her more than making a donation in her name to your favorite hunger relief organization.


Coins for Kids Blends Service, Learning

Aleta Greer's elementary school class in Alpine, Calif., started Coins for Kids.

Share Our Strength will debut a new curriculum for its Coins for Kids program in March that may “make change” in the way students learn about money.
Aleta Greer, an elementary school teacher with the Alpine (Calif.) School District near San Diego, created the program last winter. The idea was to mesh identifying coins with the community service requirement of California’s educational standards. Students brought in spare change to fill plastic tubs, and the money was charted weekly before eventually being donated to SOS’ No Kid Hungry program.
Some of Greer’s students summed up the program with this cute video.
It was only supposed to be a two-week, service-learning project, but the results kept adding up. Coins for Kids eventually grew into a fourth-month campaign that raised $1,522 and the eyebrows of SOS’ program leaders.
The initiative was so smart and successful that the hunger-relief organization included it as a fundraising idea on its youth-action Web site No Kid Hungry2.
Now the nonprofit has charged Greer with developing a formal curriculum that teachers across the nation may implement to make learning – and giving – fun.
“The kids just wanted to keep going,” Greer said. “They made and sold music makers, we had a school-wide fundraising contest between classes and they just really looked forward to graphing their progress on Fridays.
“We started by asking them if they’ve ever been hungry and what that feels like. They had a very strong response.”
Greer got inspired last year while watching “Larry King Live.” Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges was on the show advocating for No Kid Hungry. Greer loved the vision, but saw an opportunity to add the component of kids helping kids.
A 34-year veteran of education, Greer said although it’s hard to know what jobs there will be in 20 years certainly teaching students to think more globally will be important. Coins for Kids teaches a number of skills, she said, including how to be good critical thinkers and collaborators.
Several local businesses got on board as well.
Manana’s, a family restaurant in Alpine, hosted a day where about 25 percent of their proceeds were donated for the cause. The Mission Federal Credit Union also let Greer’s class count its 80 pounds of coins without the standard 10 percent fee.
“We have even bigger plans to involve more businesses this year,” Greer said. “We’re also going to have an ice cream social, a wear orange day and several other things. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids do something selfless and realize the intrinsic job of what it means to help someone else.”
There were a number of inspirational takeaways, Greer said, including a “thank you” video from SOS co-founder Billy Shore. He promised that the money would go to feed as many hungry children as possible. He also urged the children to stay involved in their community.
“In our video you see several students, some of whom are very shy,” Greer said. “There’s also one boy who stutters, but none of them hesitated to participate because it meant so much to them. We had several goals when we started, and No. 1 was helping hungry kids.”
To learn more about starting a Coins for Kids initiative at your school, visit the No Kid Hungry2 Web site and click through “Leaders Tackle Hunger” to the “Fundraise” hyperlink. Also look for the curriculum update in March.


Child Hunger Facts:
• More than 16 million kids in America struggle with hunger. (Source: USDA Household Food Security in the United States). That’s one in five kids or over 21% of all kids.
• 10.6 million kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not get it. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• 19 million kids get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• Five out of six eligible kids do not get free summer meals. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report”
• 40.3 million people in America got help through SNAP (food stamps) in 2010; half of them (20.1 million) were children. (Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Services)
• 15.5 million children in America live in poverty. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports).
Source: Share Our Strength

Sweet Success

Michele Gorham's Team

Fred Gorham, back left, has his hand on Michele Gorham’s shoulder.

Michele Gorham got into hunger relief after seeing a Great American Bake Sale ad on the side of a Domino Sugar box. Three years later she’s a Tyson Foods’ Hunger All-Star, although her first foray into fundraising was bittersweet.
The owner of Cookie Central, a cookie and baked goods delivery service in North Andover, Mass., Gorham said it was actually her husband, Fred Gorham, who first got her thinking about hunger issues.
His auto-glass repair business is just across the Merrimack River near the Cor Unum Meal Center in Lawrence, Mass. Fred would come home talking about the troublesome number of school-age children he would see in line for food.
About the same time, Michele saw the Domino ad and the synergy her business could create addressing a local need. Participating in GABS, one of the five primary campaigns Share Our Strength uses to address hunger, just made sense.
The problem the first year was she and several other bakeries put all their good intentions into one basket.
“We had one huge single event with a magician, a band and barbecue,” Michele Gorham said. “But it rained, and no one came. We were really discouraged.”
Michele and her cohorts still raised $1,300 that first year. The second year they decided to stretch their effort out for a full quarter, combining a series of bake sales with online networking using GABS’ Team Pages. They learned to piggyback on larger city events to increase foot traffic, and it went so well they expanded again.
Cookie Central participated in a total 15 GABS events during 2011 including five online promos, seven bake sales, several other volunteer events and even a GABS golf tournament at Merrimack Valley Golf Club in Methuen, Mass.
After raising $3,500 in year two, this year’s effort topped $9,000.
“I was a single mom less than a decade ago, and I know what it’s like to not have any money and to struggle,” Gorham said. “It’s such an awful feeling, so embarrassing, difficult and stressful. Now I’m in a better position to help, and what I can offer may not be as much as others, but I can still do something.”
SOS, which notes 1 in 5 children in America are at risk of hunger, recently honored Gorham with its 2011 GABS Community Leadership Award at the nonprofit’s annual Conference of Leaders.
Cookie Central offers nationwide shipping including for its Cookies for a Cause line. Cookies for a Cause feature stamped No Kid Hungry cookies ($4 per box) and Share Our Strength cookie pops ($2) and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the Great American Bake Sale.

Rural Pantries Face Greater Demand

A local food drive recently netted Loaves and Fishes Food Bank of the Ozarks more than 4000 grocery items.

Feeding America’s recent Map the Meal Gap project showed that food insecurity in rural households is generally lower than in urban areas. Still, hunger persists on America’s back roads.

Ask Sara Hodgson, executive director of the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank of the Ozarks. She says the need for food assistance in Carroll County, Ark., is like it is in a lot of rural areas right now – rising.

The Berryville, Ark., facility has seen double-digit increases each of the last two years in the number of people it serves. That number rose 12 percent in 2010 to 22,929 people. Non-commodity food distributed last year totaled 174,222 pounds, up 21 percent from 2009.

Hodgson says her client base is a lot of elderly or disabled people and working families with kids who are having trouble making ends meet. According to Map the Meal Gap findings, Carroll County has a 15.7 percent food insecurity rate with 4,280 people who are food insecure.

“Especially with the price of gas and people having a hard time finding jobs, we’re seeing a bigger need than ever before,” Hodgson says. “We have a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘I’ve never done this before.’ They’re embarrassed to have to come to a pantry.

“But we understand, and thanks to donations like the one we just got from Tyson Foods we’re able to help.”

Tyson Foods Team Members from its Berryville and Green Forest facilities recently helped restock Loaves and Fishes’ shelves with a combined $3,800 of food and cash donations.

Located near Arkansas’ northwest corner, the county was named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Ark., who died in 1832 and was the last survivor of those who had signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

But it’s not the only rural area where the hungry are becoming more dependent on food assistance. Providers such as the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana have seen the need to branch out with more and more rural pantries. In a recent newsletter, the Louisiana entity issued a call for help starting outreach pantries in Bienville, Webster and Claiborne parishes.

Rural hunger will continue to be a challenge, particularly with a season that saw parts of the south and midwest wrought with natural disasters. Loaves and Fishes Food Bank of the Ozarks does have some more good news, however. The 25-year-old faith-based program will make its last mortgage payment this summer.

And Hodgson said that will enable her outreach program to do that much more good.