The Feeding America network has been the incredibly fortunate recipient of two rounds of funding from the Walmart Foundation for dedicated food bank staffing, and in February the Walmart Foundation afforded the network a third opportunity to apply for funds for staffing. Dedicated staff funding is typically very difficult to come by, and rather rare in frequency. By funding three rounds of network staff, Walmart is creating a lasting change in the amounts and varieties of food the Feeding America network helps provide. Ultimately, this means the opportunity for healthier, nutritious food to end up on the plates of people we serve, enabling them to live healthier lives.
In July 2014, twenty dedicated store donation coordinators began work at 20 different Feeding America food bank members joining 16 coordinators made possible from Walmart’s 2013 funding. The coordinators’ mission? To consistently call upon and visit all of their local retail grocery stores to secure more food and grocery items for their food bank, partner agencies and neighbors in need.
Based upon results for the first six months of their employment, these 20 individuals secured a 14% increase overall compared to the previous period, and at the individual food bank level increases in retail donations ranged from three percent to 70 percent. The overall increase represents an additional 13 million pounds of food that is primarily meat/other frozen protein, bread/bakery, produce, and items from the dairy, deli, and dry grocery sections of the retail stores. The retail store donation program would not be as effective or successful without dedicated staff, and the store donations are primarily wholesome, nutritious items (protein, produce, and dairy).
Feeding America’s national office retail team works hand in hand with coordinators to ensure that they have full account support (retail materials, guidelines, contact lists) with regard to all of our retail partners, networking opportunities with other food bank staff, learning opportunities both in-person and online, and one-on-one field visits with Feeding America’s retail staff.
In addition to consistently being the “face of the food bank,” in the retail stores, the coordinators are also creating donor recognition opportunities and programs – encouraging retail employees to volunteer at the food bank, arranging for retailers to hold business meetings at the food banks, and assisting with retail food drives. When working with these 20 food bankers, we are consistently reminded that one person can make a difference. From Walmart’s generosity, the coordinators have already made millions of differences. They help us provide the people we serve with a better variety of foods to improve their wellbeing, and their lives.
*Diane Letson is the director of product sourcing and retail partnerships at Feeding America.