Alok Appadurai received a letter from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson that moved him so deeply it became the catalyst that would grow his apparel line into a social entrepreneurship project called Fed By Threads. Now, every month Alok and his co-founder Jade Beall help feed thousands of Americans struggling with hunger in their local communities and nationally through Feeding America.
Alok says: “I grew up in a working-class family in Philadelphia and I have been going to India my entire life, so I wasn’t naïve to the idea of hunger. But that letter from the food bank really solidified how severe the issue of hunger is in our own country. The sheer numbers to me were astronomical. I just couldn’t accept that so many people were food insecure and just move on with my normal day. It wasn’t going to happen – so Jade and I started kicking around ideas about how to help.
We began talking to our local food bank and the more we learned, the more we discovered that they didn’t need us to come with boxes of canned soup or other food each week. They needed me to apply my skill set as an entrepreneur and generate revenue. I’ve always believed that business should be used for all kinds of good, and that is how we came up with making t-shirts. At first, we would roll out a rack of them out in between sessions at our yoga studio in Tucson. If someone bought a t-shirt, it went towards helping Feeding America’s network of food banks feed dozens of people.
Not long after we started producing these t-shirts, we made the commitment to create and sell only clothing that was all American-made. We did this because we can feed people in the short term by donating funds for sourcing and distributing meals, but we can also feed people in the long term by creating stable jobs in our country.
There is something about feeding people that I think is the most innate good we can do. It’s a simple good and it never gets old. I told myself that our first goal was 400 meals, and then it was 10,000 and then 100,000 and now I’ve got a million meal goal that I don’t think is that far out. We aim to get people helping to feed America's hungriest mouths, those that are barely getting by. That's the core foundation of who we are.”