If I had known what lay ahead, would I have been as bold? More cautious? Perhaps more humble. In the sixth year of FOOD FOR ALL's incorporation as a "nonprofit public benefit corporation committed to ending hunger," our fiscal year 1990-91, I believed there was a window of opportunity for establishing our point-of-sale program as an ongoing partnership: supermarkets, shoppers, and anti-hunger agencies. How long this window would remain open was a big question. And how could we sustain the grassroots volunteer support systems we knew it would take? The FOOD FOR ALL approach was still new and attracting interest. The fact that we were involving customers and store employees as volunteers, reaching out to local and international anti-hunger forces to help determine how best to apply grant funds to make a real impact on hunger, and bringing diverse people and groups together to create more effective strategies for ensuring food security, made us stand out as more than just another charity doing good things. But were we going to be sustainable over time?
FOOD FOR ALL was becoming known for its highly participative approach. Our board of directors held two annual planning retreats each year, which included staff as well as key stakeholders, utilizing the group facilitation methods (now ToP for Technology of Participation) learned from our years on the staff of the Institute of Cultural Affairs. These same methods were used in our volunteer training of Local Grant Boards each year, and the dozens of "hunger forums" held geographically. In the fall of 1990 our Funds Distribution Advisory Board sponsored a "Sharing Approaches That Work" conference, which brought together and highlighted the work of 24 nonprofits working to "break the cycle of poverty." Over 200 persons attended the conference, featuring well-known author Lisbeth Schorr as keynote speaker, and actress Beverly Archer as MC. FOOD FOR ALL was becoming "known" among a growing but still limited audience. Could we get the attention of the one audience we needed to sustain the program: the food industry, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors?
The fall of 1990 kicks off our "Southern Californians Reaching Out to End Hunger" campaign, to feature endorsements of religious leaders, media promotions and public service announcements by celebrities, and a renewed appeal to supermarket chains. We received two encouraging responses, first from Ralphs Grocery Company to install the program in September, then a surprise phone call from Jack Brown: "Milan, this is Jack Brown. I think we need to talk." Stater Bros. Markets began our program with their opening of a new store in Redlands, at a press conference, arranged by our staff marketing guy, Scott Christiansen. Both Ralphs and Stater Bros. made it easy by designing, manufacturing and installing the displays. This added 250 stores within the first few months and got the campaign off to a flying start. By March of 1991 both Quality Foods International (Market Basket) and Hughes Markets were on board which added another 110 stores and surpassed the one thousandth supermarket carrying our program.
With Byron Allumbaugh of Ralphs and Jack Brown of Stater Bros.
It was a milestone year in more than one way. Lucky Stores customer contributions passed the one million dollar mark. Four executives of major supermarket chains came together to personally sign an appeal letter to their food industry counterparts for support of FOOD FOR ALL, resulting in a breakthrough in industry participation and nearly $200,000 to underwrite our expansion. We were able to make grants of $650,000 during the year to hundreds of local hunger programs and 18 international projects. Our staff grew to 13 during the year, including regional directors for each of our three regions, Southern California, Northern California, and New England. Our 13 member Board of Directors now included five from the food industry. I should probably not neglect to mention that our board finally determined that I had proved my worth as a full-time volunteer for enough years and should be paid a salary. Retroactively? Just kidding.
So, to summarize an exciting and bold year:
· Southern California, 731 supermarkets, $482,000, 200 plus local organizations helped
· Northern California, 270 supermarkets, $185,500, 65 grants made
· New England, 61 supermarkets, $80,500, 41 local grants made
· 18 international development projects funded in Africa and South Central America totaling $151,000
· 33 food industry companies provide financial support
· nine celebrities provide support of the campaign including Vlade Divac of the LA Lakers, Bob Golic of the (then) LA Raiders, Jaime Harrin, the Spanish voice of the LA Dodgers
· Inkind services provided by Grey Advertising of LA and Lillick & Charles, a San Francisco law firm.
It was amazing who was responding to the FOOD FOR ALL message, and who was willing to help us promote it. As I look back through the annual reports and newsletters we produced during this period, I stand in awe of what grew out of this simple idea that Linda came up with back in 1985. Seems like a hundred years ago.
It makes me wonder what could be in store for us. What will be the legacy of FOOD FOR ALL?