Saturday, December 27, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 12: California Dreaming

I never thought of myself as a merchandiser. In fact, I didn’t know the first thing about what went on at supermarket check stands, except you put your grocery items on the belt and the checker rang them up and put them in your bag. As I began to learn about all the products that were placed in view of customers right there at the ‘point of sale’ and tried to design a display rack that would fit in to each setting, I realized that somebody had to install them and maintain them. That is the job of the merchandiser, either store employees or someone from outside paid by a food distributor.

Waldbaum's 87

I also discovered that the space at the check stand is the most expensive and sought after spot in a supermarket and we were asking retailers to give us that real estate gratis. But we had no budget to hire people to do the installation and maintenance of our displays. And I soon discovered that store employees had lots of tasks to occupy their attention. It was not going to be realistic to expect them to take care of re-stocking our FOOD FOR ALL cards. We had to devise a way to support our program. This was my job and apparently no one else was going to take it on--the ultimate on-the-job training program.

FFA Office MH

Not that I was unwilling. I had designed the very first displays, clunky heavy metal jobs with adjustable brackets to fit on top of the magazine and candy racks. The cards had dye cut oblong holes that hung on removable metal pegs. The racks cost us about seven dollars each, which is fine when we had about a dozen supermarkets involved. But now we were faced with supplying a few hundred supermarkets with an average of 10 check stands. Fortunately I had acquired some friends in the industry who helped design some more appropriate racks which were attractive and also cheaper. And we were hoping that retailers would step up and manufacture their own racks to hold our cards. I don’t remember who came up with the ingenious idea to make a simple white-coated wire with three pegs that could be attached with two metal screws to a magazine rack, but he was a genius in my book. Then the cards only needed a small hole drilled in the top center of the cards and they would hang just as easily as our old cards. That meant we had to have all new cards printed. We hadn’t paid Lucky Stores for the last million cards that their billing department kept sending us invoices for.

With this as our credential, we charged ahead with expansion plans. What was in our favor, at the beginning of our fiscal year 1989-90, was a phenomenon that would impact our future, for good and ill, called “mergers and acquisitions,” a trend in the food industry that would be accelerating in the coming years. Lucky Stores was in the process of being acquired by American Stores, Inc., based in Salt Lake City, which had already acquired the Alpha Beta chain in Southern California. We approached Alpha Beta at the very beginning of our test program and were placed “under consideration,” as we were by other retailers, including Stater Bros., Vons, Ralphs, Albertson’s, etc. Now, due to some unfathomable twist of fate, we got the go-ahead from Alpha Beta to install FOOD FOR ALL in their 160 stores in Southern California, followed soon after by Lucky Stores Northern California Division’s 153 supermarkets (we had actually clandestinely got their 7 San Leandro stores to test the program in preparation for this expansion).

I already mentioned that I was not a merchandiser. So I wondered, “How were we to install our displays in another 400 supermarkets by Christmas 1989?” To our good fortune, Mike Mathers, an Alpha Beta executive, stepped up to the plate and arranged for the printing of a million FOOD FOR ALL cards, manufacturing of racks, and installing displays in all of their stores. Not that we were off the hook. We had to arrange for the packing of 160 boxes with all the displays and cards to be picked up and distributed to their stores. So we just recruited about 20 volunteers, asked my Mentone Congregational Church if we could use the church building, and one Saturday packed up all the boxes to be picked up and delivered. We were now operational in another 160 stores.

FFT 89 Aug 1 (2)   Lucky North Adopts FFA

The installation of the program in 153 northern California Lucky Stores was not so easy. As I mentioned earlier, I was not a merchandiser. Nevertheless, I found myself in my 1970 VW bus, loaded with displays and FOOD FOR ALL cards, driving the I-5 to northern California, personally installing displays and FOOD FOR ALL cards in Lucky Stores, sometimes in the middle of the night (many supermarkets were open 24 hours). I loved it! San Francisco was my “home turf.” I “left my heart in San Francisco” many years before. My VW bus made it through many merchandising trips during this and the coming years. I was still a full time volunteer, but I had no complaints.


Don’t get me wrong. While I was having all this fun, our people were working too. Linda was writing grants and recruiting and training volunteers to sustain the grassroots programs that undergirded our program expansion. Diane Adams, our Coordinator of Volunteers was pulling off a World Food Day event involving 2000 volunteers at our participating supermarkets. Pepsi and Louis Rich supported the promotion, as well as several California radio stations. In New England, Walbaum’s Foot Mart continued its support by giving all proceeds from their annual food show to FOOD FOR ALL, and involving their employees in promotions. We were able to keep the program alive with a part time staff person and donated office space in Hartford.

By the end of our fiscal year in June of 1989-90, 650 supermarkets were participating; grants to anti-hunger agencies surpassed $1 million; there were 26 local grant committees; hundreds of local organizations, and 14 international projects were grant recipients. Ten Consensus for Action Think Tanks on Hunger were held (of the 40 over three years), resulting in new strategies to address hunger.

Five food manufacturing companies had come forward in support of the FOOD FOR ALL program. Most notable of these was Hunt-Wesson, due to the connection with Frank Quevedo, Director of Corporate Relations, who would become a significant member of our Board of Directors and a good friend in the coming years.

At the fourth annual meeting of FOOD FOR ALL, attended by 35 persons, the stage was set for a major effort to reach out to the food industry and the public. This was followed by a January 1990 planning retreat of our Board of Directors and advisors, at which a campaign was announced to extend FOOD FOR ALL to all retailers in Southern California. This was to include the media, celebrity endorsements, and grassroots education.

During the fiscal year 1989-90, our Board of Directors was increased to 12 members, including Beverly Archer, actress, and John Benner, Senior Vice President of Lucky Stores, who is to become a trusted friend and eventually Chairman of our Board of Directors. Others from the food industry are Lynda Trelut of Nob Hill Foods, Bill Christy of Certified Grocers, Dan Lescoe of Waldbaum’s Food Mart, and Bob Inadomi of JonSons Markets. Neill Richards, an original supporter and member of our Funds Distribution Advisory Board, as well as Director of Hunger Programs of the United Church of Christ, also joined our Board.

The Food Industry Advisory Board of nine added Frank Quevedo of Hunt-Wesson; our Funds Distribution Advisory Board grew to 13, and the Public Relations Advisory board had 11 members.

FOOD FOR ALL staff held at eight (again, plus yours truly, still a full-time volunteer). Our most notable staff addition during the year was Lisa Dewey, a young and enthusiastic woman who came to us because she wanted to make a difference. Lisa was hired to coordinate our newly conceived supermarket employee involvement program and Southern California store expansion effort. This was one of those initiatives that took longer to bear fruit than we anticipated. Lisa left us after a year to go on to a successful teaching career, but many of the connections she made produced results in the form of supermarket employees who became Store Ambassadors and chairs of Local Grant committees for several years to come. We remain close friends with Lisa and her husband to this day. This has been one of the side benefits of the thirteen years of our involvement in FOOD FOR ALL, that we have maintained these friendships through the years.

Lisa Dewey

So a good deal of my time during our fiscal year 1989-90 was devoted to learning the merchandising trade: many hours, days, and weeks on the road in my trusty 1970 VW bus, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of a rainstorm, once in the middle of a snowstorm, driving from supermarket to supermarket, with just my Thomas Bros. map book (we did not have GPS or cell phones). Arriving at a store, checking in with the store manager, working around the checkers and customers, beginning to install a display only to be told “you need to move to another aisle—we need to open this lane.” This was all part of the on-the-job training experience of a FOOD FOR ALL merchandiser.

FFA MH Merch (3)

The learning did not stop with installation and maintenance. When one of our store ambassadors would call with a frantic “All the FOOD FOR ALL displays are gone,” we discovered that supermarket chains had a schedule of total replacement of front ends. When this happened, store managers were notified, a crew arrived in the night and replaced everything—except the FOOD FOR ALL displays. After a couple of years we became adept at keeping in closer touch with store operations personnel, to try to get there in time to salvage our precious donation cards.

FFA MH Merch (2)

Another lesson we learned early in the year: The Alpha Beta rack designer came up with his own idea—a ‘spinner’ rack with our cards hanging on rotating hooks. The trouble was that many stores’ check stands were very close to the front entrances with sliding doors. On windy days we would often find our cards ‘spinning’ right off the racks. Then employees would solve the problem by wrapping a plastic grocery bag around the cards. Problem solved—theirs, not ours.

Thankfully, while I was learning to be a merchandiser, I had people who were continuing to build the support systems for the next phase of FOOD FOR ALL. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 12, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 11: Going North

We were young. We were bold. We were enthusiastic.  We were filled with conviction that the world needed FOOD FOR ALL. We were also perhaps a little crazy. But slowing down was not in our DNA. I believe it was at a California Grocers Convention in the Spring of 1988 that I met Lynda Trelut, this attractive young woman with the silvery hair, who happened to be Vice President of CGA and also VP of marketing in her family-owned supermarket chain, Nob Hill Foods, based in Gilroy, the “garlic capital of the world.” Lynda agreed to join our Food Industry Advisory Board and also to convince her brother, the President of Nob Hill, and the rest of her family, to take on this upstart anti-hunger program. This put us in 22 more stores scattered throughout the east and south San Francisco Bay Area, and allowed us to pick up eight more independents in the same region.

FFA Farewell 6 (2)   FFA 88-89 Annl Report 9 (3)

Fifty-three new supermarkets were added to the FOOD FOR ALL family of retail stores committed to making an impact on hunger during our fiscal year 1988-89. In addition to Nob Hill Foods, Lucky added their 16 Las Vegas stores and we installed displays in 15 more independent markets. This made possible grants of over $392,000 to several hundred more local and international programs to fight hunger during the year.

FFA 88-89 Annl Report 12 (2)   FFA 88-89 Annl Report 11 (2)

Promotional help from Nob Hill Foods at all of their stores as they introduced FOOD FOR ALL to their employees and customers through a matching contributions promotion in a kickoff week of November 1988, along with Lucky Stores teaming with KABC Los Angeles at Thanksgiving and KXTZ Las Vegas for a February Nevada kickoff, and Waldbaum’s Food Mart’s contest for employees and donating all the proceeds from their annual Hartford food and nutrition show in March ’89, kept FOOD FOR ALL in front of customers’ minds and hearts, and donations continuing to grow for local and international anti-hunger efforts.

NoCal Nob Hill Foods   Waldbaum's Food Show

The Food Industry Advisory Board added several new members. In addition to Bill Christy of Certified Grocers, Lynda Trelut of Nob Hill Foods, and Dan Lescoe of Waldbaum’s Food Mart, Bill Yingling, President of Lucky Stores Southern California agreed to join. Bill was the guy who almost kicked us out of their stores after the initial two-store test in 1986, and now became one of our enthusiastic cheerleaders.

Another important addition to our structure was the formation of a Public Relations Advisory Board, made up of persons from advertising, food industry marketing people, a handful of politicians, and media folk. This allowed us to go to busy people for help when we needed it, but not have to ask them to serve on another time-consuming board. Karen Sturgeon and Bonnie Lewis of Lucky, Mayors Carole Beswick of Redlands and Susan Hammer of San Jose, Congressmen Jerry Lewis and George Brown, and Beverly Archer, an actress who had become acquainted with FOOD FOR ALL at the South Pasadena store where she shopped, and joined our San Gabriel Valley Local Grant board. Beverly will be familiar to those who watched the syndicated Mama’s Family TV show, and as the tough sergeant “Gunny” on Major Dad. She will go on to serve on our Board of Directors for a couple of years and do a TV spot for us, as well as convince Vicky Lawrence, Mama of Mama’s Family, to sit for a spot promoting FOOD FOR ALL . . .

Beverly Archer TV Spot

Beverly Archer with TV production crew and FOOD FOR ALL founders and Scott Christiansen, FFA PR Director 2nd from right.

Our staff grew to eight during this fiscal year (plus yours truly as full-time volunteer), and included a much needed Director of Funds Distribution, as well as a New England Regional Director. Sing Baker, a highly skilled local housewife with a degree in Social Work, who wanted to get back into the workforce, took on our grant programs with a loving dedication which left an indelible mark on our young organization. Diane Adams moved from volunteer to staff as Coordinator of Volunteers.

FFT 89 Aug 5 (2)      Sing Baker

Of all the challenges of growing an organization, none proved more difficult than growing the staff. I consider us lucky in that respect. It is so easy to make poor hiring decisions and it is so clear in hindsight that you have made them. We were fortunate that the right people appeared, it seemed, at just the right time. I remember all the wrong decisions as for the most part mine. Not that things could have worked out differently than they did, but acting more quickly might have lessened some of the self-inflicted pain we were to endure. But that is for a later chapter of the FOOD FOR ALL story. For now I will share only the lesson learned by quoting some management guru whose name escapes me: “Hire slowly and fire quickly!”

It was during the fiscal year ending with June 1989 that FOOD FOR ALL established its identity as a force for bringing together new resources and directing them toward addressing causes as well as effects of hunger. Here is the mission statement that guided us:

“FOOD FOR ALL is a nonprofit public benefit corporation committed to ending hunger. Its primary purposes are to generate and distribute new resources for effective programs addressing the crises, the effects, and the causes of hunger; increase grassroots involvement in efforts to end hunger; and encourage new strategies to empower the movement toward a hunger-free society and world.”

FFA 88-89 Annl Report 5 (2)   FFA 88-89 Annl Report 6 (2)

We were positioning FOOD FOR ALL to gain the support needed from the food industry to make buying ‘food for all’ a part of everyone’s food buying habit. Yet to date only three food manufacturers had stepped forward in support of expanding the program. In the President’s Message from our annual report I tried to make the case:

“Almost everyone agrees that FOOD FOR ALL’s potential is unlimited, but we have a huge job ahead of us in developing greater public awareness and in enlisting the support of the entire food industry. This is going to take every one of us going out of our way to talk to friends and neighbors, writing letters, speaking to groups, and committing ourselves to buying a FOOD FOR ALL card every week! And most importantly, we must all be thinking together about what is needed in this country to ultimately eradicate hunger.”

We were growing in many ways during 1988-89. It was in large part the result of careful and thoughtful planning, as well as the good fortune to be riding a wave of public interest in the issue of hunger. Linda and I having spent 10 years on the staff of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), where we learned most of the methods for building a grassroots volunteer organization, gave us the tools and the courage we needed to even think about growing FOOD FOR ALL into a nationwide program. Georgianna McBurney, who had been a volunteer with the ICA during the same years as we were on staff, headed up our Funds Distribution Advisory Board and helped develop our Think Tanks on Hunger. John Oyler, a long-time staff member of ICA who had worked for many years in international village development projects, joined that board and gave many hours, along with other ICA staff members, in facilitating these Think Tanks, which were part of what came to be known as our Consensus for Action program.

FFA FDAB-2   FFT 89 Aug 4 (2)

Above Left: Georgianna McBurney on lower right with Funds Distribution Advisory Board members Darryl Brock, Mike Hayes, Gianna Hochstein, Neill Richards, Aaron Zerah, Jean Faria Walker.  Above Right: John Oyler of the ICA facilitating a Think Tank on hunger.

During this fiscal year 10 of these events were held in Southern California and a number of volunteers were trained in methods to build consensus so that they could be more effective in helping develop long range strategies for addressing the hunger issue. By the end of June 1989 there were thirteen active local grant boards in Southern California, three in Northern California, and three in New England.

An important component of our volunteer program was the engagement of customers and store employees in educating and motivating the food buying public. Our “Adopt-A-Store” program and Speakers’ Bureau brought many more individuals to an awareness that they could do something about a big problem just by remembering to include a FOOD FOR ALL card with their grocery purchases.

FFA 88-89 Annl Report 13 (2)   FFA 88-89 Annl Report 10 (3)

Helen Anderson, an early FOOD FOR ALL Adopter

A simple presentation was developed that could be given at churches, service clubs and other group settings, composed of a set of boxes that showed what made for living a productive life. The bottom tier of boxes were food, shelter, transportation, and a job. The presenter then demonstrated what happens when one or more of the boxes was removed. If a job is lost, for example, soon it may be more difficult to pay for housing. This may also mean health insurance goes away. One serious illness may take away the family’s ability to pay for housing. Then the family can no longer afford to buy food. It didn’t take long for group members to see that the issue of hunger was much more complex than they had thought, and how anyone could find themselves in the same situation.

FFA 88-89 Annl Report 8 (2)   FFA 88-89 Annl Report 7 (2)

Diane Adams, Coordinator of Volunteers, Making a Presentation

FOOD FOR ALL was poised for a major expansion in California by the fall of 1989. All of our internal support structures were in place. We were gaining momentum. Shoppers were responding. There was increasing interest among retail grocers. Our small but growing army of volunteers, now numbering in the hundreds, gave us confidence.

We still had to break through the wall of resistance of the massive and complex food industry, which had not as yet recognized the value of a united effort to address hunger, nor were we certain it ever would. The competition for profits was so fierce that it was difficult to even get the attention of the decision-makers in these big corporations.

But we were not going to give up without the old college try.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 10: A Mixed Bag of Blessing

Growing FOOD FOR ALL in the food industry had a big learning curve. We installed a point-of-sale program in 200 supermarkets on the basis of having UPC (bar) codes on our cards and we did not yet have permission to print them on our cards. Retailers had to assign a cash register number code and have the checkout people tear off a stub for each transaction and turn these in to their bookkeeper each day. The bookkeepers in turn would have to count the stubs and reconcile them with the day’s cash register receipts, after which they were sent in to the accounting department so that a check could be cut and sent to the FOOD FOR ALL office in Redlands. We then had to track the receipts from each store so we could make grants to local hunger programs located in the area where the donations originated. This was the way we operated the FOOD FOR ALL program for the first year and a half. We were lucky that Lucky Stores was willing to stay with us for the first couple of years, as well as Waldbaum’s Food Mart in New England and the growing number of independent markets we were able to attract.

Lucky’s involvement was primarily thanks to Dick Fredericksen’s support and Nancy Chandler’s championing of our cause. Nancy, Director of Public Relations, was an elegant and classy lady who was in our corner from the beginning. She had a little cubicle of an office in Lucky’s Buena Park headquarters, where I was always welcomed warmly. Nancy never sought the limelight for herself, but saw her role as that of making sure the people she worked for got the credit for every one of her successes. She was the go-to person at Lucky. I felt fortunate to have Nancy take me under her wing. Which is why I still remember vividly that day in November of 1988, not long after leaving Nancy’s office, getting a call from Dick Fredericksen’s office, informing me that Nancy, on her way home from work, had a heart attack as she pulled her car to the side of the street, and died within a few hours.

Nancy Chandler Portrait Photo

Photo of Nancy Chandler Portrait Painted by her Husband, David

It took us some time to get back on track. There were several days and weeks of recovering from the shock. Nancy was a beloved member of the Lucky Stores family. Linda and I attended her memorial service and made further acquaintance with her family. We had already met Nancy’s son Bill, who was Mayor Tom Bradley’s Press Secretary, and who would later take the same position on Senator Diane Feinstein’s staff. Her husband David and daughter Deborah would also become close to us as we established an annual Nancy Chandler Memorial Grant, funded by Lucky Stores, to be given to an outstanding charity making an impact on hunger.

David and Deborah Chandler  FFT 90 Feb 1

David and Deborah Chandler and the First Nancy Chandler Grant

We were fortunate that Nancy had somehow established us FOOD FOR ALL folk as part of the “Lucky family,” so that Karen Sturgeon, Vice President of Advertising and Nancy’s boss, took us on, if not with total enthusiasm, at least with her assurance of ongoing support. It also helped that we were at the right place at the right time in assisting Karen to find the right person to fill Nancy’s position. We had met Bonnie Lewis, public relations person for Safeway Stores, early on in our presentation of the FOOD FOR ALL idea. When Safeway left the Southern California market, Bonnie was out of a job. I suggested to her one day that she apply for the job at Lucky. She did and got the job. And while no one could replace Nancy, Bonnie became a good friend and assisted us on many occasions with promotions and running interference when we needed her help.

Our UPC bar code dilemna was solved for us by a chance encounter with an independent supermarket owner at a food industry trade show in Long Beach. Our food industry advisors got us invitations to a number of conventions as exhibitors, free of charge, from the early years onward. California Grocers Association sponsored a big event each year that alternated between Reno and Las Vegas. The Food Marketing Institute, the lobbying arm of the grocers, held a huge trade show at the Chicago Convention Center annually. Bill Christy, President of Certified Grocers of California, destined to become an important member of our Board of Directors, got us a place in their annual show at the Long Beach Convention Center. These shows were instrumental in getting us exposure, although we didn’t actually get any signups on the spot. That required making a pitch to each one, whether a large chain or a one-store operator.

Ray Ziff, whose father owned a store in Los Angeles, came by our booth and as we chatted I told him of the difficulty we were having getting the UPC Code Council to allow us to use the bar codes on our donation cards. He looked at me a little quizzically and said, “That’s no problem. I can tell you exactly how to get them. Why don’t you ask Certified Grocers for them?” The thought had not crossed my mind. How come none of our food industry advisors had been able to advise us on this issue? I asked Bill Christy for an appointment and told him what Ray Ziff had told me, and posed the question “Could Certified loan us the numbers we need?” Bill got an ‘I’m not sure’ look and picked up his phone to call his IT department head. When he hung up the phone we had our UPC codes, on permanent loan from Certified Grocers. Problem solved!

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Well, not quite. We had about a million donation cards distributed in more than 200 locations at an average of ten check stands each. We still didn’t have the funds to just print all new cards. So we devised the plan. Lucky Stores would, on one day, have each store manager package all of our donation cards and have them trucked in to the Buena Park warehouse. I would drive our 1970 VW bus down and pick them up, bring them back to Redlands, and have volunteers transfer from rolls of printed bar codes, fifty cent, dollar, and five dollar, to the bottom of the cards, one by one. Good plan. Except I had not anticipated exactly how these million cards would be packaged. Naturally, they showed up in plastic grocery bags at the warehouse, and were dumped all together into a huge dumpster. I don’t remember how many trips I made just to transport them to our office, all in a two-day period. You can also imagine that a few of the cards were in no shape to go back to the stores. Nonetheless, our handful of volunteers, working hour after hour, had all the cards correctly bar-coded within a couple of days. And FOOD FOR ALL was back in business. I can’t remember exactly how we handled the rest of the stores, but eventually donation cards were being scanned at all of our markets.

FOOD FOR ALL Dollar card   FOOD FOR ALL bar-coded card

Now it was time to go back to expanding into more supermarkets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 9: Building the Infrastructure

By the end of 1987 the FOOD FOR ALL "supermarket customer contribution program to help end hunger" (one of my elevator speeches to try to describe what we were about) had indeed been launched in 36 Waldbaum's Food Mart stores in Connecticut and was averaging over two thousand dollars a week, thanks to the enthusiastic reception by the company's staff, store employees and customers. I don't remember how many trips I made to Hartford during the months from November to the summer of 1988, but we were able to grant almost $25,000 to seventeen local anti-hunger agencies by the end of our fiscal year. This in addition to the 120 local grants totaling $169,000 throughout southern California, and $65,000 to 10 international development programs.

Waldbaum's 87 4 (2)  Waldbaum's 87

How did we do it? I had to go back to our published annual report for fiscal year 1987-88 and was filled with humble pride at the unexplainable happening that was revealed there. In 238 participating supermarkets, customers had contributed $367,466. We had received more than $125,000 in seed grants from 16 foundations, corporations and religious organizations, as well as donated services equal to nearly $20,000. I was under no illusion that this was due in any significant measure to what a smart guy I was, or how many long hours I had put in to get this project moving. I did note, however, that one of the corporate contributions was a $5,000 grant from the General Mills Foundation, which I am willing to acknowledge as partly a result of my visit.

Untitled-100  Untitled-102

I am now quoting from the Message from the President (me) column in that annual report:

All of us concerned about hunger have been keenly aware that each year growing numbers of people are in need of emergency food assistance, many of them women and children and many of them employed, but at low paying jobs. At the same time, organizations that assist those needing help have suffered severe cutbacks in food donations and financial support. This is evidence of a radical shift of responsibility for solving major problems such as hunger, lack of housing, and unemployment from the federal to the local community level. Yet the resources to deal with these problems have not been generated; the local community will has not been mobilized; the effective strategies have not been devised to meet this challenge.

This was the context for how we developed the FOOD FOR ALL program from the beginning. Working with our eight member board of directors, our nine member Food Industry Advisory Board, our nine member Funds Distribution Advisory Board, and our small and under-paid staff of four (plus me, who got to be President in lieu of a salary), we went back to our years with the Institute of Cultural Affairs where we developed and implemented methods of grassroots participation. Out of this combination of taking an "idea whose time had come," some retail grocers willing to take a chance, and a growing network of volunteers captivated by the vision of a hunger-free future, came the three strategies that would characterize FOOD FOR ALL for the next decade. Again, I turn to our above-mentioned annual report to jog my memory.

1) Generating new financial resources to be distributed strategically

This of course was the year-round program of check stand contributions that gave grocery shoppers the chance to give a small donation every time they buy food for their families. We determined from the beginning that only 10% of shopper contributions would go for maintaining the organization, and that of the 90% going to grants, three-fourths would go to local programs in the area where they were contributed, and one-fourth would go to long-term solutions to hunger internationally. The way local grants were made was by what were known as Local Grant Advisory Boards, made up of volunteers from the local areas willing to be trained to review grant applications, make site visits to local applicants and make recommendations to FOOD FOR ALL's board. International grants were made through a similar process by our Funds Distribution Advisory Board.

During the 1987-88 fiscal year there were fourteen Local Grant Advisory Boards in Southern California and three in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

2) Increasing grassroots involvement in ending hunger

This was in many ways the heart of the FOOD FOR ALL program. Before we conducted the first test in a supermarket, we operated with the conviction that it would be critical to involve all sorts of grassroots folk in all aspects, from deciding how money was to be applied to the hunger issue to sustaining the program at the "point of sale." We developed several sub-strategies to keep FOOD FOR ALL front and center in people's minds.

Through FOOD FOR ALL'S Adopt-A-Store program, community organizations commit to working with nearby stores to increase customer participation. Adopters now include religious organizations, corporation employee groups, service clubs, junior and senior high student groups, families and friends, and small businesses. (FFA 1987-88 annual report)

Consumer education was also important, so a speakers' bureau offered an educational program which graphically depicted how hunger affects everyone and attempted to motivate people with ideas of how they could take individual and group action, with FOOD FOR ALL as our example of a simple way anyone could participate. Over time we would involve hundreds, perhaps thousands of volunteers as "store ambassadors," customers and sometimes employees at each supermarket, who would do periodic simple promotions with a table inside or outside the store entrance and who would become our watchers of displays, reporters of any issues that needed to be addressed at "their store," and educators of customers, store managers and employees about FOOD FOR ALL.

3) Building consensus for action

FOOD FOR ALL finds out what local people think about hunger and its solutions through . . . an ongoing Think Tank process which begins when FOOD FOR ALL is introduced in a new area. The Think Tanks involve a broad range of people concerned about hunger in a strategic planning process through which participants articulate their vision of a hunger-free society, identify current barriers, determine new directions, and recommend funding strategies for the coming year. (FFA 1987-88 annual report)

These events provided us with the guidance that made decisions about applying FOOD FOR ALL grants toward more than "band-aid" short-term approaches. We realized early on that it is more difficult to give money away than to raise it. One political campaign should make that crystal clear to anyone who "has ears to hear." The introductory Think Tank was followed by an annual review and update to the strategies and funding priorities for that area.


A third component of the Consensus for Action program is a regional conference focused on "sharing models of effective local action." (FFA 1987-88 annual report)

As of the end of June, 14 Think Tanks on hunger had been held in southern California. Three were already scheduled for New England, and plans for a series in northern California, where we were planning to expand during the coming year. We were fortunate that we had the ongoing connection with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), the organization Linda and I and Georgianna McBurney had been with for many years. The ICA provided facilitators, usually pro bono, for many of these events. Linda was the staff person in charge of all the volunteer programs of FOOD FOR ALL, with an enormous number of hours of assistance from Georgianna and Helen Anderson, a retired school teacher in Orange County, who spent the next decade as a full-time FOOD FOR ALL volunteer. There are others I could mention, and some I omit because of faulty memory. Diane Adams comes to mind. Diane, a Redlands housewife and mother, was a miracle-worker for FOOD FOR ALL's World Food Day events, coordinating hundreds of volunteers in a single day promotional event at all of our participating stores, as well as our speakers' bureau presentations.

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Jenny Foster, above right, and Diane Adams below right

I can't leave this episode in the FOOD FOR ALL story without paying tribute to its founder, Executive Vice President and my wife and life partner, Linda, who managed virtually everything aside from board of directors recruitment and development and marketing to the food industry, which was my assigned area. Linda also wrote almost all of the grant applications for seed money to support the organization during this critical phase. Along with Linda, our staff during this time included Jenny Foster, office manager, who would be with us for the next 10 years and continue on even after Linda and I left the organization. Jenny brought so much to making things work, and also got us an indispensable asset, her husband Ev, who was a systems administrator for San Bernardino County, and who single-handedly designed the financial tracking and accounting system for the store contributions coming in from supermarkets. To round out our small staff, Norma Stumreiter, now deceased, served as our bookkeeper for a couple of years, and Lance Ternasky, a friend and local educator, was a part-time program coordinator.

FOOD FOR ALL was now on the way to a feast and famine future. I can't wait to continue the story.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 8: Going Bi-Coastal

It was the Spring of 1987, one year after our Redlands kickoff in the Gerrards and Lucky stores, followed by a 12-store pilot project and the Lucky launch in Southern California which we were still installing and which would enable us to reach 187 supermarkets by the end of the summer. Calls and letters had been coming into our little office at 112 E. Olive from the time we first set up displays. One of our food industry advisors suggested that we contact a newly formed nonprofit organization made up of retired industry executives, the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger (FICAH). This group, for good or ill, will be intertwined with us in a common destiny, but we will have to wait a decade for that story to play out. The name they chose to fight world hunger should give a clue or two to their mentality. But they, like us, were responding to the growing global crisis of food insecurity. They were raising money to fund international projects run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I discovered that one of the retired executives in this food industry version of "old boys' network" lived in Southern California and had been CEO of Vons Grocery Company. When I met with Ken Olsen he listened patiently for a few minutes to our desire to get FICAH's endorsement and help in expanding our program, after which he informed me that he had his own idea for a Holiday fundraiser using coin boxes at the cash register under the FICAH banner, and he felt our program would be a distraction. He wasn't really open to considering working with us non-industry up-starts. But he didn't discourage me from going to their board meeting in Washington, DC in June. Since I had already wrangled an invitation I decided to go anyway.

But how?! We had not yet figured out how we were going to finance our operation. We had hoped that getting the retailers on board with FOOD FOR ALL would attract sponsors and funders in the vast food industry support system: the manufacturers, brokers, suppliers, advertisers, etc. Now we learned that we would be approaching the same companies that our FICAH friends were asking for donations. They were the "who's who" and we were the "who're you?" But this was nothing new to us. I had "friends in low places" (sorry Garth).

So I found myself again in the upstairs back office at Gerrards Cypress Center. "Paul, I am at a loss. We have an invitation to FICAH's board meeting. We need to get our idea in front of food manufacturing executives to get financial support for expansion. We are putting all the check stand donations into grants for fighting hunger. Any advice?"

Paul thought for a moment and then: "Let's give Bill Christy a call. He knows lots of people in the industry." Bill Christy was CEO of Certified Grocers of California, a large wholesaler supplying independent stores and small chains. Based on his friendship with Paul and his interest in our idea from the start, he agreed to write letters of introduction and make phone calls to executives he knew at General Mills in Minneapolis, Kraft Foods in Chicago, Kellogg's of Battle Creek, Michigan, and General Foods in New York. Paul then offered to pay my way on this cross country trip, up to a thousand dollars. In 1987 this would cover the entire trip. I got appointments with three out of the four industry leaders.

So, armed with my sample FOOD FOR ALL displays, letters of endorsement from everybody I thought would matter to these guys, and my one business suit worthy of making presentations, I headed east on Southwest Airlines, which became my airline of choice for the next decade. I was fortunate to have family, friends and colleagues all over the country, from my church and ICA days. My daughter lived in Minneapolis so I could bunk at her place while visiting the General Mills contact. Kitty Cole and the Myers, Sally and Kermit, in Chicago put me up on numerous occasions when in town for the big annual Food Marketing Institute conventions, and on this occasion, the meeting with Kraft Foods. I was on my own flying into Detroit for the drive to Battle Creek to meet the Kellogg folk. Neill Richards and his wife Jessie, who lived in New Jersey, would put me up many times on my east coast journeys.  Neill will play a most important role in keeping our program going in New York and New England.

General Mills Mpls


I made passionate pleas for support to these food industry giants on this trip. I came back with a feeling of failure, not a red cent pledged to advance our cause. It was not a total loss, but it would take a few years before their mild interest would produce fruit. The most illustrative story I have from that series of meetings was the one with Mr. William (Bill) Lamothe, CEO of Kellogg's of Battle Creek. I rented a car at the Detroit airport and made the two hour drive to Battle Creek, this delightful small town in middle America. I found the Kellogg's headquarters, a five story large red brick building right in the middle of Battle Creek. I entered a large atrium with an escalator running in front of me to the top floor. After identifying myself I was directed to the moving stairway, to be met at the top by the Vice President and head of the Kellogg's Foundation, a very pleasant and welcoming woman who greeted me warmly and escorted me to the executive suite of offices where she introduced me to Bill Lamothe, who impressed me as a slight man for an industry giant, and to the President of Kellogg's US.

Kellogg's of Battle Creek

The three of them sat with me for an hour and a half, asking questions about our program, its progress and our plans for the future. They seemed genuinely interested and trying to find a way that the company could be helpful to us. At one point, Mr. Lamothe made a pointed statement: "You know, if we really wanted to, we could put your FOOD FOR ALL cards into every one of our cereal boxes." That comment seemed to be his one thought about how they could help us, and it sort of hung in the air for a moment and then: ". . . not that we are going to do it." When it came time to end the meeting, Bill Lamothe, the CEO of Kellogg's of Battle Creek, said: "Wait a minute." He went to a cupboard at the side of the meeting room and pulled two boxes of cereal off the shelf. Handing them to me with an air of pride, he said: "These are two of our newest products we are introducing this year." He was giving me a gift. "This is the new Muesli." I did not blink an eye, although I was internally swallowing hard. "Thank you for these, and thank you for your interest in having me come to Battle Creek," was all I could muster. He then walked with me all the way down the long escalator right to the front door. As with the other companies, it would take a few years before this visit would bear fruit. But the irony of the meeting and the result did not escape me. Of the many chances to meet these "captains of industry" in the coming years, this story stands out in my memory.

By the time I got to Washington for the meeting with the FICAH board, I was a thoroughly humble nonprofit executive. And having my expectations lowered also meant I had nothing to lose. So I was pleasantly surprised at the warm reception I was given by FICAH's executive director, who was actually a guy with years of experience in the NGO world internationally. I was also welcomed and encouraged by the board officers, especially their president Dick Katzenbach, a retired CEO of Fleming Foods. Dick and I would maintain a cordial correspondence for the next decade. I was assured that FICAH had interest only in supporting international self-help projects, but warned that board member Ken Olsen was committed to spreading his Holiday coin box project, which might make it more difficult for our fledgling program.

National Mall

The FICAH board meeting was being held at the same time and location as a newly formed coalition of non-governmental organizations, such as World Vision, Save the Children, Freedom From Hunger, and many others. It's name was INTERACTION, and was headed by Peter Davies, formerly President of Freedom from Hunger. I was fortunate to get introduced to heads of many major nonprofits involved in anti-hunger efforts, and since FOOD FOR ALL's mission was to support these efforts through grants, they were all interested in what we were doing.

At the end of this week-long cross-country "junket" I was wondering if I had calculated all the obstacles that would possibly arise and whether we could muster the resources to meet them. As I was spending my last couple of days walking around the Capitol mall, soaking up what I could of our nation's history, I wondered just how they did it, the founding fathers (and mothers--don't forget Abigail Adams and Martha Washington). They encountered far more resistance than we had. What kept them going? And they were building an entire new country! We were just trying to get a couple of industries to adopt a new idea: the food industry and the anti-hunger industry, and, though it's a stretch to say industry, supermarket shoppers across the country.

I happened to remember that one of the letters we had received when the first test of FOOD FOR ALL was publicized in Supermarket News, almost a year before, was from a grocery chain in New England. I called the office to get the address and phone number, thinking I might as well at least touch base while on this side of the continent. The letter was signed by Daniel J. Lescoe, Vice President, Marketing of Waldbaum's Food Mart, Springfield, Massachusetts. I dialed the number and asked for Mr. Lescoe.

"This is Dan Lescoe."

Hi, Mr. Lescoe, this is Milan Hamilton of FOOD FOR ALL." (That was as far as I got).

"What took you so long. We've been ready to go with your program for a year now."

I had been in Springfield, Mass in the seventies when I was with the ICA and working for Monarch Life, whose home office is there. But I was in Washington. So Mr. Lescoe suggested that we meet for lunch the next day in Hartford, Connecticut. "There is an express train to New York and you can catch a commuter train and be in Hartford by Noon. I'll meet you at Frank's Italian Restaurant, just a couple of blocks from the station." That was an invitation I could not refuse.

Franks of Hartford

Somehow I made it to Hartford in time, found the restaurant, and during an hour and a half meeting, on a lunch napkin, planned the launch of FOOD FOR ALL in all 36 Waldbaum's Food Mart stores along the I-95 corridor, from Greenfield, Mass to New Haven, Connecticut, including all the logistics: racks, installation, employee orientation, advertising, and whatever else I thought was needed. Every time I brought up an issue that sounded to me like a potential hindrance to success, Dan would respond with "Don't worry about that. I'll handle it." That included any costs involved. And the wonder of it was, I believed him. We planned to introduce FOOD FOR ALL for the 1987 Holiday season, kicking off Thanksgiving week. This gave us a few months to make all the contacts in the local nonprofit world. Should be easy.

I returned to what was now the national headquarters of FOOD FOR ALL, Inc. with no money, no clue how we were going to finance a bi-coastal program, no firm commitments for food manufacturer sponsorship. But strangely, I felt a little like Rocky dancing on the steps. I had been in the inner sanctums of some of the leaders of the food industry. I had stood in our nation's capitol gathering courage for what lay ahead. I had been to New England, the cradle of liberty. I had almost the same feeling as in 1978 completing all of those Maine Town Meetings, a part of the massive volunteer bicentennial project the ICA conducted. After all, we now had more than 200 supermarkets participating, on both ends of the country. And No One had as yet come right out and said to us: "This is a crazy idea. It won't work."

But we have our work cut out for us.

Monday, October 6, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 7: The First $100,000 is the Hardest!

So many pieces had to come together. We needed staff to handle the accounting for donations as they came in from companies and stores. We needed funds to hire office staff. We needed office space and equipment. We needed to continue reaching more supermarkets. We needed help in promoting the FOOD FOR ALL program.

What we had was a committed group of volunteers, including our Board of Directors, now numbering seven. Mayor Carol Beswick and Darryl Brock, Executive Director of Survive Food Bank in Riverside, were captivated by our vision of FOOD FOR ALL in every supermarket. They joined our Board in the Spring of 1987. Our growing Food Industry Advisory Board of influential grocers included, besides Paul Gerrard, Bob Inadomi of JonSons Markets in Los Angeles, and Bill Christy, CEO of Certified Grocers of California, a large wholesale grocer. Both Bob and Bill would become important members of our Board of Directors as we expanded the program.

JonSons Mkt kickoff

Steve Soto, Bob Inadomi, Bill Christy, Milan Hamilton

Our Funds Distribution Advisory Board, headed by our founding board member Georgianna McBurney, was a key element in developing our policies and procedures for making grants to impact the hunger issue, locally and internationally.


Funds Distribution Advisory Board

The fledgling Public Relations Advisory Board of marketing and PR professionals and a few politicians gave us valuable guidance in how to best promote the program. But it was the grassroots volunteers, customers and store employees, anti-hunger activists and churches, who made it all work.

Store Volunteers 1   Store Volunteers 2

Because of Linda, my, and Georgianna's years of training with the ICA in methods of participation and community development, we were able to come up with a system of volunteer recruitment and training. This would generate hundreds of committed people willing to work toward common goals: The link between the supermarkets and the local agencies that would be the recipients of grants to help alleviate hunger. Our volunteer "Store Ambassadors" took on the job of educating employees and customers about the need and how their donations were helping. They helped maintain the displays and periodically would get permission to hold a promotion at "their store." Our trained Local Grants Advisory Boards (LGABs) reviewed grant applications from local agencies, conducted site visits regularly, and made recommendations to the FOOD FOR ALL Board for grants. There were ultimately about ten of these in Southern California alone, with anywhere from three to ten volunteers on each one.

We were fortunate that FOOD FOR ALL received quite a lot of recognition from the media within and outside the food industry from the start. This was probably a blessing and a curse. We were getting calls and letters of interest from as far away as Connecticut while we were still trying to establish the program in Southern California. Board member Redlands mayor Carole Beswick attracted the interest of Paul Newman who agreed to be our national spokesman before we even were national. So though his involvement gave us a shot of adrenalin and he raised about $10,000 through a letter to his friends, his involvement ended soon after when he realized we were not quite ready to "go big."

Paul Newman June 87   Paul Newman Letter May 87

By the end of September of 1987, just one year after completing our two-store test, donations had surpassed $100,000, we had completed the installation of FOOD FOR ALL in 180 Lucky stores in Southern California and Las Vegas, JonSons Markets in East LA, beginning tests in three Hughes Markets in Pasadena, and a dozen independent grocers scattered throughout the region. Grants of more than $50,000 had already been allocated to local hunger relief agencies, plus three international projects: An experimental agricultural project in Puerto Rico, a Meals for Millions (now Freedom From Hunger) program in Honduras, and Heifer Project in the Dominican Republic.

We were now in a one-room donated office at 112 E. Olive, which would grow into FOOD FOR ALL's national headquarters, thanks to the generosity of local CPA Charles Ziilch. We had somehow managed to hire two part-time staff, Jenny Foster and Norma Stumreiter. We were trying to figure how to allow Linda to quit her day job at the University of Redlands and I believe this happened during this period as well, due to a generous grant of $10,000 from World Vision, made possible by a meeting set up by Stan Matson, a development officer at the University. Things just seemed to be falling in place for this "idea whose time had come."

FFA Hub 1     FFA  2

Jenny Foster and Linda Hamilton

Now we had a six month salary for Linda to devote full-time to managing a growing volunteer and grant program. I was still a full-time volunteer. In lieu of paying me I was elected President. Our Board of Directors now numbered eight, having added Bob Inadomi of JonSons Markets and Scott Reynolds, the Redlands attorney who did our original incorporation and by-laws pro-bono.

We were ready to go for major food industry support and expand the program to other regions of the US. We were also advised by our food industry supporters to seek the endorsement of a newly formed organization of industry executives, the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger (FICAH) and the lobbying arm of the grocers, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). They were in Washington, DC. I was trying to figure out how to get to their meeting. There were also several major food manufacturers we needed to get in front of to try to gain their sponsorship. But they were in the Midwest and the east coast.

It was time to get advice and help. So I headed for Gerrards Market, asked if Paul was in, and trudged up the steps to his office.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FOOD FOR ALL ERA 6: We Are Lucky!

New Year 1987 was a celebration of a successful eight month test of our "supermarket check stand customer donation program to help end hunger." It takes a while for a grassroots group of neophytes at marketing and advertising to get a concise message, but that is what was required if we were to make this work. "Simple, elegant, compelling" header cards for displays and colorful donation cards with the entire FOOD FOR ALL story on the back. We decided against the usual photos of a hungry child that characterized most appeals for donations. That is also why we spent two years in research and preparation for a public education program that involved conducting "hunger forums" all over southern California, followed by building a network of volunteers who would determine how local grants were given out and who would educate customers and employees about the hunger issue, and how giving a FOOD FOR ALL donation each time they bought groceries would help.

Lucky Redlands 86


FOOD FOR ALL at Loma Linda Market

FOOD FOR ALL had been nursed through its infancy in Redlands during the latter part of '86 to twelve supermarkets by the end of the year, raising $18,000. During this time, in addition to traveling around in our 1970 VW bus, loaded with metal racks and our supply of donation cards, I made several stops at Lucky Stores Southern California headquarters in Buena Park, getting acquainted with just how supermarkets operated, in anticipation of Lucky taking on our program chain-wide. Dick Fredericksen, VP of Marketing, introduced me to Karen Sturgeon, Director of Advertising, who reported to Dick, and Nancy Chandler, Public Relations Director, who reported to Karen. Dick was a typical marketing executive, an idea man who was always coming up with great promotions for the company to execute. Karen was a "show me" person, and "by the way who is going to pay for this?" Nancy Chandler, ah yes, dear Nancy: She was someone who quietly went about her work getting things done, cajoling anyone who needed cajoling, figuring out ahead of time who needed to be convinced of the rightness of her cause, and going around whomever needed to be gone around. Nancy was responsible for Lucky's charitable giving. Nancy got FOOD FOR ALL. Nancy got me!

When the time was right, sometime in January of 1987 I believe it was, Nancy and I devised a plan for "rolling out" FOOD FOR ALL in all approximately 170 Lucky Stores in southern California, a district at a time, LA County first, then Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside,San Diego; and finally the outlying stores in Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern and Tulare. This would take some time. We only had one merchandiser to set up all these displays at the time: Me! and my trusty '70 VW bus with the middle seat removed.

The issue of how to get all the printed cards and display headers we needed was solved also by Nancy. Lucky's advertising department would print them. When Karen finally agreed to Nancy's request, she said: "Send them an invoice for the job." This was not to be the first time Nancy went to Karen and every time I would ask her "What shall we do about this invoice we got from your advertising department?" Nancy would give me a pat on the hand and smile and say "Let me worry about that."

One more minor hurdle we had to get over, I discovered, was "Operations." Don Pratt, Vice President of Operations, like Dick Fredericksen, reported to the President. We had to work with all the Lucky District Managers and Store Managers in order to actually install displays at their check stands. I overheard a remark by Don Pratt in the hallway of Lucky headquarters after a meeting with Nancy, Karen and Dick one day, Don speaking to one of his operations guys: "So what's tricky Dick up to now." Nancy couldn't help me with this one. Although everyone loved Nancy, we were going to have to win this one with a lot of hard work and bending over backwards to not make store managers' jobs any harder than they already were.

The time finally came for the "Lucky Launch." April 6, 1987. The plan was ready. The cards were printed. My VW bus was gassed up. The word was out to the District Managers to prepare their store managers for our coming. Nancy was ready with her PR plan. I forgot to mention a couple of other reasons Nancy was our champion. Nancy was a good friend of Stephanie Edwards, Lucky's TV spokesperson in those days. And Nancy's son Bill was Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's chief of staff. One day as we were discussing the coming kickoff in Lucky Stores, after I had already put up displays in many of the LA stores, Nancy said: "Why don't I give Bill a call and see if he can help us?" It happened that the Mayor was in town and it was a good time for him to hold a press conference. The media had some questions they were dying to get to him about. So Bill scheduled a press conference with the primary purpose of announcing the introduction of FOOD FOR ALL in Los Angeles.

The day came, April 6. We showed up at City Hall and were surprised and delighted to find the press room packed with every newspaper and TV outlet in Los Angeles. Paul Gerrard, Bob Inadomi of JonSons Markets, and of course Dick Fredericksen of Lucky were there. Bill Chandler had done his job. Mayor Bradley did his job, which he was good at. He introduced Linda and me as founders of FOOD FOR ALL. We gave our little spiel, profusely thanking the mayor, Lucky, and the other supermarket owners, and then the press got their opportunity to ask the mayor about what they came for, which was not FOOD FOR ALL. Nevertheless, FOOD FOR ALL became the day's story on the 6 o'clock news on all channels.

LA Mayor Press Conf

Now all we had to do was get FOOD FOR ALL displays up in all 170 Lucky Stores, four more JonSons Markets, and a handful of independent grocery stores. Lucky was pushing us to move as fast as possible to take advantage of the chain-wide advertising and promotion they wanted to do.

Lucky Launch Message

Lucky 66 April 9, 87We still had just one merchandiser--Me, and my '70 VW bus. And we still had no operating funds. Linda was still working full time at the University of Redlands. I was the only full time volunteer. We were still operating out of our town house living room. We needed HELP!