A little over a year ago, our new business development team began incubating the idea for BoxLunch. From the very beginning we felt that this was the perfect opportunity to create a retail brand that had a charitable component that was incorporated into every part of its DNA. We knew we wanted to support a cause that would positively impact struggling Americans across the country. After learning more about the crisis that millions of our neighbors face attaining food security, we decided hunger was the cause we wanted to take on.
Our company’s strength would stem from unleashing the passion of our employees and building a loyal customer base that was equally passionate about our mission. Our strategy was to make an impact at the grassroots level. Our store employees would be our brand ambassadors and we would make an impact in their local community, expanding our impact across the country as we opened more stores nationwide. It was a great plan but a logistical nightmare. Early on we realized it would take an army of people at BoxLunch to work alongside the hundreds of food banks across the country, and we were not equipped to handle that task. If we were going to accomplish our goals, we knew we had to find the right partner to help us. Feeding America was the perfect fit.
BoxLunch started making an impact at the local level before we even opened our first retail store. We decided to invite our management team to a day of volunteering at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank – a member of Feeding America - as part of their onboarding process. The food bank’s marketing director, Andy Morris, gave us a tour of their facility and explained some of the ways the LA Food Bank is changing peoples’ lives every day. For some of our team members, this was their first experience with hunger and volunteering. They hadn’t known that volunteering a few hours of their time could so tangibly help people in need. Frankly, I think my team—like many people in America—may have had some misconceptions about food banks before we volunteered at one. We had a key “aha” moment when we were having a round table discussion with Andy to share what our experience at the food bank had meant to us. As we talked, we discovered that a couple of our managers had a very personal connection to food banks and our cause. One manager spoke about their mother trying to raise three kids as a single mom. If it weren’t for the local food bank, they never would have made ends meet. Another manager shared that their family had a very secure middle-class upbringing until their father got sick and wasn’t able to work. As the medical bills piled up, the family grew increasingly desperate. Fortunately, the support of their local food bank helped their family to get back on their feet. These personal connections made our encounter with hunger that day even more real, helping us better understand how many people may face hunger in our country and motivating us to see how many of our neighbors in need we could help that day. By the end of the volunteer event, our small team had processed and salvaged 17,000 pounds of good food that otherwise was going to end up in a landfill—equivalent to 14k meals. Our team left the food bank united and committed to continuing the fight against hunger. Additionally, when the managers shared their volunteering experiences with the rest of their store team members, we discovered even more personal connections between our employees and local food banks. The experience at the food bank was so inspiring for everyone involved that BoxLunch has added four-paid volunteer days every year for all employees to make it easier to join the fight to end hunger.
We hope to provide help to hunger-relief organizations in each of the regions where we operate stores. Our vision is to have hundreds of stores with thousands of employee brand ambassadors helping the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network fight hunger.
We couldn’t be happier to kick off this new business venture with such an incredible partner in Feeding America and hope that when consumers visit our stores they are inspired to help make a difference too.
*Robert Thomsen VP GM Merchandising and Marketing for BoxLunch.
**Photos courtesy of BoxLunch