Feed the Future is an integrated and sequential series of programs developed by our Foodbank and designed to foster nutritional independence and the desire to build healthy communities in children, from the womb to high school graduation.
We can’t food bank our way out of a lot of the nutritional challenges our communities face, but we can educate and empower our way out of a lot of them. But you can’t eat education, I hear you cry. This is true – so our programs are all designed to balance the provision of food and short term hunger relief (which is the draw) with the food literacy education and empowerment (which is the long term solution).
The illustration above shows our cycle of Feed the Future programs, designed to promote food literacy and bring about the end of childhood hunger in a single generation. On the other pages in the drag down menu at the top of the blog post are details of individual programs – two of which have already won national awards.
The illustration below shows how this model works in our organization. The third element that makes this engine successful and sustainable is the fuel to power it. And that is community leadership – giving the program over to the communities being served as well as those non-paid people who love to teach and interact with kids once or twice a month. This enables programs to take root in community centers or after-school programs and for people to want to continue doing them. THis makes them less vulnerable to the vagaries of non-profit funding, where programs can sometimes open and close like Halloween stores.
Time was when having a mission was enough for a non-profit. They would trudge along, having successes in preventing things from getting worse in their field of service, but rarely making huge leaps forward in eradicating the societal challenge they were formed to engage with. This is perfectly legitimately the nature of some non-profits – we’re not going to eradicate foster children or neglected senior citizens – but for others it can induce a kind of long-term stasis. In some cases this can lead to stagnation. Programs in place because they’ve always been there – no measurement of the true impact in the community of what they were trying to achieve. I don’t mean to be a zealot or to denigrate the wonderful work that people do to transform individual lives with their love and attention. I am talking about the collective impact of the organization.
Increasingly, successful nonprofits are embracing the concept of having a ‘destination.’ A finite place where they want to arrive at. Here is one example.
People want to be involved in a cause that is moving forward and achieving something. They want tangible results. At the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, we moved from a traditional mission statement (see below) which posited a kind of eternally unchanging situation.
Here is our new ‘vision’ statement, which of course is a different thing, but something we use all the time as if it was the mission statement:
So you can see the difference. Here the emphasis is on the food bank as a tool of the community will. YOU can end hunger and WE can help you. Big difference. Also it posits a specific destination (The end of hunger), but it really goes far beyond it, and to the central subject of this blog. Using tools originally designed for hunger relief we can transform the health of the entire community. Most people get it and are far more energized by a positive expression of health and good nutrition, rather than focusing only on the insufficiency of hunger. Still, one old donor did complain that the kids in this picture looked too well-fed and we needed to find HUNGRIER looking kids. You can’t please everyone….
Once you have a destination stated you need a pathway to travel on to get there. In its simplest expression, here is the pathway we use: