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.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE all of this reminiscing. Thanks for your brilliant effort to get it in writing. You and Linda remain my heroes!