Focus on Food Month Aims to Alleviate Childhood Hunger
For the month of May, the GSF Foundation launched its new “Focus on Food” initiative to support community food banks in their efforts to alleviate hunger. To help children and families struggling with food insecurity, local Foundation committees have the opportunity to make a grant to eligible 501(c)(3) food banks through an expedited process with matching national GSF Foundation donations up to $5,000 per local food bank grant.
“Hunger touches every community in America and beyond, and our associates continue to focus on feeding our most vulnerable neighbors in the communities where we live and work,” said Tess McAnena, GSF Foundation Executive Director. “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread economic hardship it caused, millions more people have struggled to put food on the table. In 2021, an estimated 42 million people—including more than 13 million children—in the U.S. may face hunger.”
As a leading supplier to the foodservice industry, Golden State Foods (GSF) feeds 5 billion people worldwide every day. Associates across GSF’s food manufacturing and distribution businesses have a deep connection to fighting hunger. In fact, associates have donated nearly 1.2 million meals to vulnerable community members since 2002 when the GSF Foundation formed.
Most recently, in response to the Coronavirus crisis, associates impacted hunger relief through broad organizational initiatives, customer partnerships, and micro-volunteering opportunities like food drives and individual fundraisers. In early pandemic relief efforts, the GSF Foundation quickly took action to help children and families in need by fast-tracking nearly $200,000 in food bank grants with matching funds for local Foundation committees. Just the beginning of numerous efforts throughout 2020, these food bank grants propelled a wave of giving across GSF’s U.S. locations and around the globe.
“I saw on TV that they were throwing milk away, and I thought that was crazy,” said Larry McGill, GSF Corporate Vice President and KanPak U.S. Chief Executive Officer, of the spring 2020 news that farmers were dumping excess milk due to rapid, unexpected changes in supply chain demand. “I knew that there had to be something that we could do to help.”
Turning surplus milk into truckloads of relief for vulnerable families in Southern California and Kansas, GSF’s dairy products company, KanPak U.S., spearheaded a surplus bottled milk hunger alleviation initiative. KanPak collaborated with the GSF Foundation, GSF, and its Centralized Freight Management subsidiary to innovatively bring shelf-stable milk to market in record time. Since June 2020, the company has supplied millions of bottles of long-shelf-life, premium whole milk to U.S. food banks through donations via the GSF Foundation and by selling them at cost.
Partnering on customer initiatives, GSF foodservice distribution company, Quality Custom Distribution (QCD), supported Starbucks’ 2020 No Food Wasted program and has continued to collaborate on FoodShare donation logistics across 22 U.S. distribution centers. After QCD Seattle piloted Starbucks’ FoodShare in early 2019, the ready-to-eat meal rescue program expanded nationwide to more than 4,800 Starbucks stores donating over 31 million meals to 23 Feeding America food banks with QCD’s support.
“Together with Starbucks, we fight hunger by giving back in the communities where we all work and live,” said Brande Bond, Vice President, Customer Service and Development, QCD. “FoodShare has expanded across the entire QCD network with a big push in 2021, and now we have the opportunity to share this model with other organizations to help them start and scale up similar donation programs.”
GSF culinary professionals who develop popular Quick Service Restaurant sauces, syrups, and dressings donated their time and talents to making meal donations. In the commercial kitchen at GSF’s Chicago Innovation Center, GSF and Cargill corporate chefs teamed up to donate more than 1,000 volunteer hours over nine weeks, preparing more than 3,500 meals in 2020 alone. The chef-crafted meal donations benefitted families staying at four Ronald McDonald House Charities homes in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, as well as for local healthcare workers.
Looking back at its nearly 20-year legacy of food-focused causes, the Foundation introduced a national program, Feeding Hunger: A “No Lunch” Lunch, to combat childhood hunger. In 2016, associates from GSF’s North Carolina facility organized the Foundation’s first one-hour soup kitchen-style lunch to raise awareness and funds to fight local food insecurity. Following the model of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County’s annual “No Lunch” Lunch events, various local Foundation teams have held Thanksgiving season fundraisers, collectively generating more than $385,700for community food banks around the country.
In the mid-2000s, as a Board Member for Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, GSF Foundation Board Chairman and GSF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Wetterau chaired the capital campaign to raise more than $8 million to remodel the food bank’s newly donated facility in Irvine. He later served as the organization’s Board of Directors Chair and remains actively involved today in an advisory capacity.
“Through the years, countless Foundation volunteers have dedicated their time, talents, and treasure to make a difference in the lives of children and families struggling with food insecurity and other challenges,” said Mark Wetterau. “In appreciation of past and present associate service, this month’s renewed Focus on Food encourages our associates’ continued care and active involvement in ending hunger.”