Tom Wilson is right.


Tom Wilson is right.

The chairman and chief executive of Allstate has called on corporations to “be a force for good in society.”

Those of us with a more direct line to doing good should flesh out what that means.

While I’ve never bought into the notion that big business is evil, most companies are only scratching the surface of what they could do to solve the challenges we face as a society.

When many hear this, they think about paying a living wage or providing good health coverage. And those things absolutely matter. But many companies also have the power to bite off a particular problem and work to solve it.
A good example of a company that’s doing just this is Giant Food, a subsidiary of Ahold. A 36-year partner of the Capital Area Food Bank, Giant had long been supporting us in the same fashion that many good companies began to back in the 70s – with checks and food. And don’t get me wrong: this kind of support is still needed and appreciated. What is happening now, however, is important because it significantly increases the odds of making a fundamental change possible.

pick produceUnder the leadership of Gordon Reid, Giant is piloting the use of Capital Area Food Bank recipes that break down barriers to fresh food. Giant sees, as we do, that sometimes it isn’t that a single mom with three kids isn’t willing or able to buy kale – she just isn’t sure how to prepare it, what it will taste like, or how long it will take. And when resources are precious, taking a risk on an unfamiliar vegetable isn’t one that many families feel they can afford. So our recipes, put within reach by Giant, spell out how to use produce in a way that feeds 4 people for less than $7, often in just a few minutes. It’s a great alternative to fast food.

Maybe even more important, Giant and Shoppers Food warehouse are two bold retailers who have acknowledged that too many processed carbohydrates with added sugars are finding their way onto the tables of low-income families. As higher income families eat better and opt for fewer of these high margin, high carbohydrate foods, they can sometimes be donated at a volume that doesn’t make sense for Food Banks committed to providing a balanced offering of protein, fruits, and vegetables (along with, yes, an occasional treat).

Shoppers Food Warehouse was first to heed the call to sort out bakery items (cakes and pies) from its donations. Now, Giant is going a step further, working to sort out even more items like leftover holiday candy. Both retail chains have stepped up the nutritional levels of the boxes of food they create for people to buy and donate at the register.

cafb giant
When we hear Wilson talk about being a force for good, all this is what comes to our minds.

As we build our partnerships, there will be even more opportunities. Many neighborhoods still lack affordable retail access to good food, and players ranging from Fresh Direct to Ahold are trying to crack the nut that allows for city-wide delivery. When that happens, there will be even more options for affordable food.

The list of ways for corporations to solve tough challenges is long.

We need companies to help with technology.

To help with publishing a cook book we’ve written.

To join us in driving innovation around our logistics and inventory and so many other things.

Anyone out there? Let’s have coffee.