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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.