It was the spring of 1984. Linda was working in administration for Whitehead Center at the University of Redlands. I was an adjunct faculty member traveling to various off-campus sites teaching evening classes for working adults trying to complete their college degrees. Things had settled down a bit regarding our family dramas, although son Robb's mental health issues were still a big concern. Eric was in his junior year at Redlands High School. Our family had moved "down the hill" and was renting a two-story 2-bedroom apartment in Redlands Town Homes. Having been forced to downsize after our personal version of the economic downturn of the early eighties, we had done a values re-assessment and were beginning to enjoy participating in the "Simple Living" movement. "Live simply that others may simply live" was its motto.
Since we had limited resources but also an abiding desire to alleviate human suffering, we identified three big issues we wanted to devote energy to: World peace, the environment, and the gap between the haves and have-nots. A fourth we saw as underlying and permeating the others has become more and more important to us through the years. We've not found an adequate name for this dimension. Spirituality is almost a cliche encompassing a multiplicity of practices. We might just say it has to do with nurture of the human spirit.
We joined the Redlands Peace Group at about the same time Beyond War came to Redlands so we got involved. We tried to pay attention to how we were personally using the planet's resources and walked or rode bikes. We recycled. We attempted to shop wisely and frequented thrift shops. At the grocery store we would purchase a few extra items to take to Redlands Family Service. It was sometimes difficult to make the extra effort but we kept at it. I had mentioned to Linda after one of these trips that the Director, while thanking me for the supplies, said that they could really use more help in the form of money donations.
One day Linda came home from the supermarket and shared a thought she often had while standing in the checkout line. She said that as she was buying groceries and thinking about the Ethiopian famine and also of the growing reports of hunger in America, the thought came up: "Wouldn't it be great if there was a simple way to give a donation while buying food for your own family." That was the germ of the multi-million dollar idea that became FOOD FOR ALL.
The grocery industry was rapidly joining the technological revolution. The bar-code and laser scanners had already spread into about half of the nation's supermarkets. "What if there was a display at each check stand with a bar-coded card hanging on it. A customer could take the card and add it to his/her purchases as a way to help address the hunger issue while buying food for the family." Simple, easy, elegant. A way to respond to the impulse to help alleviate someone else's suffering with a swipe of a card. Linda wanted to know if I thought it made any practical sense or if I thought it could work.
I said "That is a great idea sweetheart! Why don't you pursue it and let me know how it turns out?"
The rest of this tale takes up the next fourteen years of my/our life and will be told in readable bytes.