Monday, September 26, 2011

142nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Counter Intelligence
View of the Cabriolet (red arrow, top center) in the Axis
Food Mart parking lot from behind the customer counter
“Is that your car? Really different. What’s it all about?”

If there is going to be a conversation with new customers during my 7 am to 1 pm shift at the Axis Food Mart, that’s generally how it starts.

Since the Cabriolet is the only car in the parking lot and I am the only soul around, then obviously it’s my car. But I let the deductive reasoning slide and quickly explain my community service.

A few weeks ago, a new customer listened to my spiel, took his change and a couple steps toward the door before turning around.

“You know,” he said, while placing his plastic bag back up on the counter, “I teach sports to young kids and the other day I discovered one of them was stealing from me.”

His statement seemed to conjure up the hurt he felt. I could see it in his eyes.

“I don’t know what to do,” he lamented.

Years ago, when I ran my graphics reproduction firm back in Princeton, NJ, I encountered a similar situation. My petty cash was light a number of times over a 30-day period and I figured out who was taking advantage of the unprotected cash.

He was a good kid, mostly, and turned out to be a better adult, but at this moment, he was headed down the wrong road. After the next pilfer job, I sat him down and held a simple discussion on trust and honesty. I told him two things. He’s got to admit he stole the money and if he does, nothing will happen to him.

If he doesn’t admit his wrong, his deed will weigh heavy on his heart the rest of his life because he didn’t think the whole process through. If he does not face the other side of the theft, that is, what his victim is thinking, he will never know or understand trust. All he will ever experience is mistrust. And that mistrust is one hurdle one’s self esteem can never jump over. The kid told me, albeit it, haltingly, that he took the money and we never mentioned it again … to anyone. That was his first day of consciously choosing to live in a world of trust.

“I’ll try that,” my customer said as he grabbed his bag and headed back to the door. “I’ll talk to the kid.”

Last week, the coach came back and told me he did have that conversation with his student and the kid admitted his mistake. Then the coach reached into his wallet, pulled out a $50 bill and handed to me.

“That’s for the Community Food Bank and your help,” he said. He pushed his wallet back into his pocket and left abruptly.

I’m thinking that since my Cabriolet is often the instigator of these heady conversations, I’m going to spiff it up a bit this coming weekend with a new coat of wax. Then, maybe, one of my stories will be worth a $100 bill for the Community Food Bank.

Frank Flasch making his firs
delivery to the Community Food

John Rorke, the graduate student
at ASU School of Social Work,
introduced Frank to our One Can
A Week program

Frank collected 52 lbs. in his
first week. Our first Miles
Neighborhood donation
was 22 lbs. so Frank is off to a
great start.
Just the Beginning
Meet Mr. Frank Flasch. He’s an engineer who fully understands the meaning of the word consistency. In fact, his profession requires it or things he builds would fall down.

Frank lives in the Old Ft. Lowell Neighborhood and he decided to develop his own One Can A Week program.

Besides the normal neighborhood layout with streets and sidewalks, there are gated communities, too. He likes this aspect because it brings a new dimension to One Can A Week. How does one get those neighbors involved with feeding the hungry families in Tucson when there are rules to follow such as "No Solicitation Beyond These Gates.”.

In a few weeks Frank will tell us how he is doing and how to encourage folks who live in gated communities to donate to the Community Food Bank on a weekly basis. Bet the solution will be fascinating.

Three Weeks in a Row
When the photos of the food carts for the past three Sundays are placed side by side, all three cereal stacks are equally as tall. Don’t question the phenomenon, just keep on doing it.

We collected a total of 168 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $81.50, a $25.00 check and $56.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, September 19, 2011

141st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
“Go Spend Some Money”

Although Ron Abbott, the owner of the Rincon Market and I apparently voted for different candidates in the last national election, we think a lot alike. And that’s the way it should be.

Most of the time Ron is very busy Saturday mornings prepping for catering parties later in the day or making those eye-popping omelets. Maybe once a month he takes a few minutes out to talk to me about business … his favorite subject next to stories about his grand kids.

Within a minute or so he started discussing the economy. “You know,” he said, “there is only one way to fix the economy, go out and spend some money. Spending money makes our economy work. If you hold back your money, everything slows down.”

I’m always telling folks to do something, not wait for the government to solve all of our problems. So this was music to my ears. Ron mentioned that he is maintaining his staff levels and is paying his loyal crew way above the minimum wage. But like other company’s in Tucson, business at the Rincon Market is a roller coaster ride every week.

“When people complain to me about the economy,” Ron added, “I tell them we’ve got to fix the economy and to fix it we just have to spend money. If those with money spend the money the economy will improve.”

Ron’s dead right, you know. In fact I’m thinking about getting one of those new, 110-watt washer/dryer combo units that is really high tech. It’s expensive, but what the heck, if I’m going to be broke, at least I’m going to be clean.

Related Good News
While eating dinner tonight I watched Brian Williams on the NBC Evening News. About half way through his report, he talked about jobs coming home from China. It seems that wages in China are jumping 30% to 40% a year. In addition, because of the One Child Rule, they are having trouble finding young, less expensive workers. Consequently, their manufactured goods prices are getting to normal, developed-country levels and manufacturing in the good ol’ USA is becoming competitive again. (Click on the link above to view the news story.)

Even if our workers are a little pricey, the quality of their work more than compensates for the added expense. (Low quality is another one of China’s problems.) Then you mix in Ron’s directive to spend money and I’m feeling a little more optimistic today. Hope you are, too.

More of the Same
This week’s cereal donations numbered 22 boxes and bags. Amazingly, it is the same number of boxes and bags we collected last week. How do you folks do that?

We collected a total of 170 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $44.00, a $25.00 check and $19.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, September 12, 2011

140th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Answering Jacob’s Call

This week’s fruit, peanut butter and cereal all in a row.
The wind blew the nearly 6-foot stack of cereal over before I got this photo. One of the Community Food Bank’s crew helped me by holding the stack in place, then on my signal, stepped quickly out of the frame.

Last week, our first collection of cereal, fruit and peanut butter in response to a request by Jacob Coldsmith, the Logistics Manager at the Food Bank, was significant, too, but well below the wind barrier.

It is obvious cereal is way up, but so to was peanut butter and canned fruit. Notice that huge can of Dole pineapple. It’s bigger than the bunch of bananas in the background.

There is one more notable statistic to admire. Even with all of that cereal, our weight was 14 lbs. above our weekly average. Apparently Jacob’s concern that our weekly weight would drop if we concentrated on breakfast cereal is not a concern at all. How nice!

We collected a total of 182 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $30.90, a $25.00 check and $5.90 in cash.

Just getting started a week ago.
This week’s normal glamour shot doesn’t tell
the whole story as emphatically as the first
photo above, but all of that cereal flowing out
of the cart is still impressive.
See you Sunday,


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

139th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Progress Times Seven

John’s donation in the catbird seat.

Quietly Committed
For a couple of years now, John, my friend and computer client, has given me a Costco-sized box of canned vegetables, soups, peanut butter or tuna every time we meet. To show my appreciation and respect, I place his donation in the top right corner of our One Can A Week food cart. It sticks out there but somewhat modestly.

Apparently his unassuming dedication to feeding the hungry is making a difference on his home front, too.

Carrying on the Tradition
Heidi, John’s lovely wife decided, in honor of Patriot Day, to coordinate a food drive at her office. She works for Climatec, “one of the Southwest’s leading providers of advanced building technologies for a wide variety of industries and buildings.” They have offices in Phoenix, and Tucson in addition to Albuquerque, NM and Irvine, Riverside and San Diego, CA.

In her email to the folks in the Tucson office, Heidi wrote, “In recognition of this occasion. Climatec is sponsoring a food drive to support the Tucson Food Bank’s One-Can-a-Week program.

“We will be collecting contributions through Friday, September 9th.

“Let’s remember to live, laugh and love in honor of those we lost.”


Community Food Bank is honored
guest at neighborhood backyard

Let’s Eat and Do Something
It is obvious John’s and Heidi’s friends are also paying attention to their inconspicuous commitment to feeding the needy. John sent me a copy of an email updating neighbors invited to this past weekend’s barbeque.

“BBQ at Ron & Giff's on Sunday - we are going to bring the tri-tip I got yesterday. Giff just dropped off 3 cases of beans and a case of Mac n cheese for our food drive!!!!”

Like John and Heidi, if more and more people did something that didn’t take much effort but they did that something on a consistent basis, others would notice and jump right in to help.

Miles Explatory Learning

School’s Open
It didn’t take Rebecca Lipson long to get her One Can A Week program started again at the Miles School. But she is taking a number of new directions this year to encourage her students’ and their parents’ commitment to care for our hungry families here in Tucson.

Rebecca wrote, “I just wanted to let you know that One Can a Week is up and running again at Miles. I have a great group of kids working on it and we have already implemented some changes that I am hoping will help keep the momentum going through the year.

“Our bulletin board is a tree theme, with each classroom being a branch of the tree. For every 10 pounds donated, that classroom will get a leaf added to their branch, so they can see how much their donations add up. At the request of the teachers, we moved the board to have more visibility for the elementary students. We are also focusing on a specific food theme for each week--peanut butter, canned meats, beans, cereal, etc. This was my students' idea last year in their end of the year brainstorm about how to make it more successful this year. I'm hoping this gives the kids something specific to focus on and help families know what to donate.

“At this point I am planning on delivering the donations to the Food Bank on Monday afternoons. I am hoping to get more families and/or staff involved by having different people delivering the donations to the Food Bank, but I'm still working that out.”
What I am sure of is Rebecca will work it out, or think of something else that will truly make a difference.

Rosemary at the Sunflower Market
Up again, down again
We always try to encourage consistency in our One Can A Week program which the Sunflower Farmers Market is taking seriously.

The first week in August they donated 100 lbs. The next 5 weeks looked like this: 30 lbs., 6 lbs., 84 lbs., 8 lbs., 66 lbs. Even though it’s a bit of a seesaw ride, they still donated an average of 49 lbs. per week. And no matter what anyone says, that’s impressive for a pink food donation box
Rincon Market

Capitalism at its Finest
When told about the current need at the Community Food Bank for cereal, canned fruit and peanut butter, Ron Abbott, the owner of the Rincon Market, said he would instruct his grocery buyer to find private label deals to maximize his customers’ donations. And maximize he did. This week the shopping cart was overflowing with cereal boxes and other stuff. Next week will be just as impressive.

When Ron and I say One Can A Week is a capitalist idea, this is exactly what we are talking about.

Catalina Vista Neighborhood
Our Youngest Coordinator
Maria is 15 years old and wants to go to medical school. For her community service she decided on One Can A Week. This is a great choice because our program has so many ramifications including community organizing, the psychology of group donations, and of course, feeding the hungry.

In our first meeting, I suggested Maria keep a log of her experiences especially those that directly relate to personal growth and the understanding of group dynamics. When it comes time to write her essay for her Harvard Medical School application, she will really have something to say.

In her email below, you can see Maria took the advice to heart.

Hello Peter,

“Last week was actually my first week to spread the word, and this was my first collection week. So far things have gone great! So far over 84% of those who have answered their door have agreed to participate, and 100% of those 84% have remembered! I spent about 30 minutes chatting with Ellen Adelstein (your former classmate), and enjoyed getting to know her, although my dad (who was riding around the neighborhood on his bike while I went from house to house) got a little too worried. …I look forward to next week!”

Imagine over 102 weeks of reflections and changes to both herself and her neighborhood. Can’t wait to read that paper.

Cereal Doesn’t Lighten the Load
When Jacob Coldsmith at the Community Food Bank asked us to add cereal, peanut butter and canned fruit to our donation list, he thought it might adversely affect our total weekly weight. (Cereal boxes are big but quite light. It’s the milk that bulks up this important breakfast food.)

Even with a 4-foot stack of cereal, we beat our weekly average. The great equalizer was the increase in peanut butter and canned fruit donations.

So keep the cereal coming, we’ll still tip the scales as a heavyweight.

We collected a total of 170 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $6.20 in cash.

See you Sunday,