Does How Charity Food Agencies Acquire and Distribute Food Matter?–A guest post

by John Arnold
Executive Director
Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

Does How Charity Food Agencies Acquire and Distribute Food Matter?

Yes!  It does.  International award-winning research in West Michigan identified nine key points in the collection and distribution of food where what exactly is done and how it is done makes a huge difference in costs and outcomes–likely enough to be the difference between a community’s being able to adequately address its hunger problem, or not being able to.

For example, if a charity food agency promotes traditional food drives, what it is promoting is having its supporters pay full retail prices for the food given, and for them to donate that food in ways that are not tax-deductible.   If instead the agency promoted its supporters donating money, the agency could likely acquire 10 to 20 times more food for the same amount of money from the area’s food bank, and the donors could likely claim a charitable gifts tax deduction for their gift.  Where $10 could have put $10’s worth of food into the charity system at a cost to the donor of $10, the same $10 could put as much as $200 worth of food into the system at a cost to the donor of only $7.50!

Over on the distribution side, the possible improvements are equally large, the largest one being how food is given to needy people:  If they are handed a bag assembled by someone other than them, chances are good they won’t be able to use as much as half of what they are given.  Far better they be permitted to assemble their own bag from all the products that are available, because then they will be able to use all that they take.

The bottom line on those three changes–agencies should:

  • Collect money instead of food,
  • Acquire food from the area’s food bank instead of from stores, and
  • Let clients pick out their own food instead of being handed a collection of things they possibly cannot use.

These three intiatives combined, can create up 52 times better leveraging of help per dollar spent.  That is equivalent of having 52 times more money than you have had!

With that much more money and food available, then food pantries can address some of the other critical issues our research identified:  how often people are permitted to draw food aid, what hoops they have to jump through to qualify, how much food they are permitted to take, etc.

Our research’s findings and recommendations can be found on the “Resources” page of our web site:  and can be downloaded and printed free.  Look for “Charity Food Programs That Can End Hunger In America”.


Could an open-source donation work?



By Ed Nicholson

So I’ve got this idea.
I’ve been reading  Here Comes Everybody  by Clay Shirky, and he’s describing how Linus Torvalds envisioned Linux as a a community-developed operating system, using an open-source model.  A collaboration of bright minds and refined skills. Obviously, it was a great vision.
And I’m thinking: Wonder if we could do an "open-source" food donation. Commit a certain amount of food and let the community decide how it should be donated.
Here’s what I’m thinking. Tell me if you think it would work: 

Tyson Foods would commit a truckload of Tyson products (35,000 pounds), to be donated to a Feeding America member food bank. (you can find out which one the 200 food banks serves your area by going here).  You tell us how it should be donated. 

Here are the only requirements:

  • It has to generate awareness. Either for the issue of hunger, or for the people and organizations invovled every day in the fight against hunger.   
  • It has to go to a Feeding America food bank.

Here are factors that would  be strongly considered:

  • Engagement.  Will it compel people to actually do something?
  • Creation of community.  Does it provide a means by which people will continue to stay engaged.
  • Creative use of social networking tools.

Here’s what it wouldn’t need to do:

  • Sell Tyson products.  Honestly.  This wouldn’t be a cause related marketing effort (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We’re sincerely trying to enage as many people as possible in the issue of hunger, and we don’t want to put anyone off by making them feel as though we’re "using" them to sell products.
  • Require a financial commitment to execute (I only have chicken to work with). 


So there you go.  What do you think?  Would people participate? 

photo by  James Cridland, Creative Commons, Flickr  

Scoring off the field with the Razorbacks.

By Ed Nicholson



A cold morning at Don Reynolds Stadium

Today we’re live-blogging from the University of Arkansas’s Don Reynold’s stadium, where we’re partnering with the Arkansas Razorbacks, and Lift Up America to distribute a truckload of Tyson products to agencies of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.

We have Tyson chairman, John Tyson, UofA athletic director, Jeff Long, Dave Hannah, CEO of Lift Up America, and a bunch of Razorback athletes and and spirit squad members, all braving the cold to help load boxes of chicken into trucks, vans and trailers going to non-profit agencies serving the needy in northwest Arkansas. 

All of this started five years ago with similar donations involving the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.  This is the third year we’ve done this event with the Razorbacks, one of sixteen such events we’ve done with Lift Up America and college and pro teams this year. 

We’ll be posting here as the day develops, as well as putting up Twitter messages, adding photos to Flickr, and posting videos to YouTube. 

Special shout out to Hugg & Hall for bringing out a forklift to help us get the products off the truck!

You Filled A Truck For the Food Bank For New York City!

Thanks to all who commented on this entry about hunger in New York City and the work of the Food Bank for New York City . We now have more than 350 blog comments, meaning a truckload (approximately 35,000 lbs.)  of Tyson products will be delivered to the food bank sometime in the next couple of weeks. 

Meanwhile, please stay involved in the fight against hunger. New Yorkers can find out more by contacting the Food Bank for New York City.  If you’re somewhere else,  Feeding America has a handy food bank finder tool on its site that will connect you with one of its 200 member food banks across the U.S.

Thanks again.  It’s your engagement that makes this kind of effort possible.  And it will be your passion and compassion that make it possible for us to consider a day when the fight against hunger will be won.