For the Buelow family, “changing their corner of the world” is more than a phrase. Todd, Michelle, and their two daughters each do his or her part to address hunger, poverty, and homelessness, among other social issues, in their community.
It only takes a short conversation with her to learn that business savvy and a caring heart find their perfect match in Michelle Buelow. A mom-turned-entrepreneur, Michelle is CEO of Bella Tunno, a baby and parenting accessories line designed to make a difference. Launched in 2005, Bella Tunno has grown from an in-home venture to a thriving commercial business with diaper bags, crawler kneepads, bibs, blankets, pint-size bodysuits and more available at retailers of all sizes, including Nordstrom and Amazon.
A passion for hunger relief may seem misplaced amid this fast-paced, successful business. But for the Buelow family, helping others — including eradicating hunger — is not an afterthought, but rather part of the company’s very foundation.
One impactful moment solidified the family’s long-term commitment to hunger relief. A volunteer experience at a local elementary school brought the severity of child hunger into focus. While sharing tangerines with first and second-graders during story hour, Michelle discovered that some of the children had never heard of the fruit. And before she could explain that the peel should be discarded, several students bit into them like apples. But then came the biggest surprise. “Some children chose to continue eating the rind because they were so hungry,” said Michelle. “You cannot know that happens and not do something about it.”
Blending the Buelow family’s passion for hunger relief with Bella Tunno’s child-centric mission made perfect sense. Since 2013, Bella Tunno’s Buy One Give One Initiative (B1G Initiative) helps alleviate childhood hunger in the United States. For every product sold, Bella Tunno donates one meal to Feeding America to help children struggling with hunger. “Through the campaign, consumers play a role in ending hunger,” said Michelle. “They have a direct impact, connecting one child in America with one meal.”
Now in its fifth year, the B1G Initiative has gone from baby steps to an all-out sprint, having raised funds for more than 685,000 meals to date. “The more we do, the more we want to do,” Michelle said. “It hurts your heart to see children facing hunger.”
We asked Michelle how a heart for hunger relief grew into a national effort with Feeding America. “It was not by chance,” said Michelle emphatically. “It was through research.” Bella Tunno staff compiled a spreadsheet of non-profits associated with keywords like “children,” “family” and “meals.” Then they dove further, analyzing and comparing Charity Navigator ratings, fundraising efficiency, charitable commitment ratings, credibility and whether the funds would be used here in the United States. It revealed one conclusion: “Feeding America became the clear choice,” said Michelle. “We love our partnership. When you give to Feeding America, your gifts will have the most impact and the most reach.”
Michelle also added that through the B1G Initiative, “for every action, there is a philanthropic reaction” — connecting food-insecure children with much-needed meals. And as a result of their partnership with Feeding America, with its ability to feed more children than any other hunger-relief organization, participants can know “that what you do is exponentially impactful.”
As part of Bella Tunno’s commitment to "do better, live brighter and love bigger," each sale triggers a financial donation to help someone in need. Donations are directed to the Matt Tunno Make a Difference Memorial Fund, created to honor Michelle’s late brother who struggled with drug dependency. From there, funds are disbursed to a myriad of philanthropic causes close to the Buelow family’s heart in their community of Charlotte, North Carolina and across the country, including hunger relief for children.