Double-take on a familiar face: My reintroduction to Tyson Foods

I am now in my fifth month of my internship with Tyson Foods. To be completely honest the only thing I knew about Tyson when I began this internship was that Tyson produced chicken and that Tyson was a great employment provider for many people I knew growing up. Many of my own family members worked their first jobs in the chicken production plants.

Tyson Team Members with LULAC PresidentIn the four months I been here I have learned so much more about Tyson Foods and quite honestly I was blown away by all the work Tyson puts into giving back to the community. I personally never experienced hunger, but like many families in a tough economy, at times money gets tight and we all have to cut back on spending. Thankfully my parents were always working hard to make sure we always had meat on the table, not just bread but meat. My father in his early years was a butcher and his father before him was a butcher too; the importance of protein as a part of a daily meal was always very clear to them.

On my very first week of my internship with Tyson Foods I was sent to Las Vegas. There the company had paired up with LULAC  (League of United Latin American Citizens) and was making a donation of protein to the local food bank.  The donation was of 38,400 pounds of protein! This donation was to feed more than 100,000 Nevadans fighting hunger.

When I came back to work, the Tyson team was gearing up for yet another donation and more work around creating awareness about food insecurity, and also continuing to giving more help to Moore, Oklahoma. Little by little I discovered a new face of Tyson, the human, caring face of Tyson Foods.

My parents have always inculcated the values of being a good neighbor and giving back. To me giving back is a much greater gift. When you give back to the community you are making a change, a visible, tangible, change. Through this internship I have learned that Tyson Foods isn’t just about chicken, or beef or pork for that matter; it’s about people.

Monsanto, ADM and the fight against hunger. A good partnership?

Before I go further, let me state the following is my personal opinion, not necessarily that of Tyson Foods, or anyone else in the company.

I ran across a post on my Facebook news feed yesterday from Feeding America talking about their Invest an Acre partnership with Monsanto, ADM, and the Howard Buffett Foundation, in which they’re encouraging farmers to pledge an acre of their production, the benefits of which would go to Feeding America.
The comment section was lit up.  Massive flames.  The gist: Feeding America has sold out to the evil empire of Monsanto.  Shame on them.  Boycott.  Occupy.
Let me offer a different perspective (and I can speak with some authority):  Corporations are not monolithic empires.  The most successful ones—and no matter your opinion of Monsanto, it is successful, as is Feeding America—are made up of  diverse collections of people. They don’t all think and act alike. Each and every day their cultures evolve, influenced by this diversity.
The hunger relief community has the capacity to influence the culture within Monsanto (again, I speak with some authority).  Much more so than Monsanto has the capacity to influence Feeding America.   But they can’t do it if they’re lobbing nuclear bombs.
If you truly care about hunger relief, you should want the people who drove the Feeding America partnership (and I’ve never met any of them) to be successful within Monsanto.  They’re the progressive thinkers within the company.  They’ll have their naysayers (one would hope not many), stating, “This is an exercise in futility. There’s no way our company benefits from this.”  Let me suggest that blanket invective only gives support to the naysayers and diminishes the influence of those who advocate for positive change.  Do we want that?
If you truly care about hunger relief, you should want the thousands of farmers who use Monsanto products and sell to ADM to be engaged in the issue.  They’re in the business of feeding people, and they do it quite well.  If their energy, intelligence and innovation can be rallied around the issue of hunger, there’s enormous capacity to move the needle.
I don’t agree with everything Monsanto has done and stands for.  But I do believe condemning Feeding America for engaging them and America’s farmers in the fight against hunger—a positive step—is counterproductive.
Flame-retardant suit donned.



Let’s talk




by Ed  Nicholson

Last week I was in a meeting with a major national non-profit organization.  It’s a great organization, that’s doing notable work toward its very worthy cause.   It’s full of thought leaders at the highest level. 
The representatives meeting with me described a complex national strategy to address the issue at hand.   One that was going to take the buy-in, cooperation, and financial commitment of a wide variety of stakeholders: government representatives, corporate partners, foundations and thousands of individual donors.
When I asked them about their online plans to take this strategy to their stakeholders, I drew a blank.
Their online communications strategy is the exclusive property of their marketing group–whose objectives are to create brand awareness and raise donations.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…
They have thought leaders.  They have a strategy.  They have a message.
What would they have to lose by letting some of their thought leaders discuss that strategy online?


photo by PinkMoose–Creative Commons. Flickr

Who’s sticking their nose in your business?




                                                                                                 image davi sommerfeld  Creative Commons–flickr


By Ed Nicholson

Sorry for the week’s hiatus.  I was out talking about social media last week–instead of participating in it. 

At Tyson, we’ve been involved in hunger relief for nine years.  Well, actually for the first couple of years, we weren’t really involved–we just threw money and food at it.  Just like all the other good work "campaigns" we’d ever done before. 
But then an interesting thing happened.  We started visiting foodbanks during donations; getting to know their work.  We went to conferences, and heard a diversity of inspiring speakers.  Our employees started doing hunger relief work in their own communities. 
In the process, we became engaged.  Hunger relief has become an important part of what we’re doing as a company.
But sometimes it does complicate the relationship we have with our non-profit partners.
Now that we have some time invested in the issue, we have opinions.  We ask questions.  Sometimes we challenge conventions. Some might see it as interfering where we don’t belong.   We’re not always right, but we’re engaged. 

So here’s your chance to  voice an opinion and help us become better partners.  Please comment:   Where do we draw the line between contributing and meddling?  Should we produce food and leave the strategic work to the experts?  If you’re a non-profit, does it aggravate you that someone from the outside would presume to tell you how to do your job?  Would it be a better world if ultimately corporations were not even involved in social issues? 
You know I love dissent.  So let me have some.

Are you talking to ME? Another voice. Another idea.



By Susan Brockway

Yesterday when I came home from work I was again inundated with envelopes asking for money.  “Won’t you help us send one child to camp?”, “Did you know that your $5 will help purchase an animal to help a family become self supportive?” and many more on a daily and weekly basis that contain the same message; send a check. 
Most people do not know that I actually give a substantial percentage of my income each year to groups and agencies that support missions I feel strongly about. 
However, hundreds of solicitations go in the trash unopened, especially from organizations to which I send regular checks, and I am simply caught in their mass mailing circle like a hamster on a wheel. 
Times are tough.  I know.  I’m president of the board of a local Feeding America food bank, and the demands are overwhelming.  All non-profits are in desperate need of cash. Many will fail.
But fundraising tactics are becoming counterproductive.
Think about this:  What about starting (and maintaining) non-profit relationships with conversation that doesn’t involve an "ask."  (I actually had this occur yesterday–pleasant surprise).  Not necessarily asking for money on the first call, but starting with a conversation about this issue, the work of the agency, and sincerely asking for perspective on how we as a society should approach the challenges at hand.   Would that allow you to open your mind and become a partner in the fight?   Would you engage and not tune out? Are there other ways to open the door to honest engagment without wasting trees and online bandwidth?   Let me know what you think.