Tuesday, May 27, 2014

281st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
15,214 lbs. of Food Donations in 5 Months
That's Enough to Feed 3,901 Kids and Folks
Three Meals in One Day.

There were 21 weeks in the first five months of the year. Eighteen of those weeks saw a truck load of food, 500 pounds or more, delivered to the Community Food Bank.
Those who participate in One Can A Week are really doing something positive and productive about our terrible problem of hunger here in America. Week in, week out they give a can or a dollar and the combined results are astonishing.

The question is, how do we engage more of the 265 million Americans—who are not food insecure—to reach out to help the 46 million Americans who are?

The answer, I think, is to encourage folks when they help—to also ask themselves—why do they help. Begrudgingly… that’s probably their first response. Too many questions race through their minds. Do I have to go? I hate those things. Too noisy. Too many conversations. Too much involvement with other people who appear not to want to be here either. Where is all this food and money going? Is it really feeding folks?

When I first thought about doing my fair share of community service I had so many reservations I almost dropped the idea of helping people on a broader scale. The obligatory meetings. The group dynamics. The off-point discussions. Then nothing really gets done. This led me to think about what kind of community service would I like? No meetings, of course. Personal but very little interaction because that’s what most of us like anyway. “Got to get back to my texting, writing, singing, baby hugging, etc.” The list is endless.

And then there’s the control. I wanted to set the commitment, the agenda and monitor the results. Would what I do really help or would I be waiting on someone on another committee to decide what the color of the swing set should be before we can put the darn things up in the playground?

As I was writing these words, Dian Scott, the coordinator for the Shiva Vista Neighborhood stopped by to drop off her five stuffed shopping bags of food and 62 lbs. of grapefruits. I told her what I was doing and then I asked her what she liked about the One Can A Week program. “You don’t call me,” she began, “you don’t get in the way of what I am doing because I’m really busy. You give me my results and you let me be me.”

Well … I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

Then I quickly asked her how I could find more volunteers like her? “Send out a news release to all the media looking for community good,” she advised, “like the Weekly and those ‘Good” publications.”

If I could find just one more person like myself who would enjoy picking up the food and ten more like Dian who just wanted to collect and drop off the food, then we could double our output. That would be 30,000 lbs. in five months helping around 7,700 folks worry less about where their next meal was coming from.

One Can A Week's Chartable Growth

Google not only provides a free blog—for which I am very grateful—they also analyze every comment, continent and click. (Notice the map at the bottom of the graphic which shows One Can A Week is definitely an American project.)

Although the blue chart accurately chronicles the interest in our One Can A Week’s blog, the start date is March 10, 2009, not May, 2006.

For some reason after absorbing all that awful national news last week I decided to look around for other facts that weren’t as depressing. The Huffington Post article helped increase our YouTube video views from 1,212 to 1,542 in just a few days. That’s 330 possible volunteers…or not.

The funk was still in my brain until I realize the growth chart itself was a thing of beauty. Even with all of the ups and downs, One Can A Week is steadily increasing its viability as it gets older. Sticking and staying is really working. 

That did it. I got back on track and began planning my next moves at Sprouts. It’s amazing how one piece of personal happy news can put things back into perspective.

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

Man Hours and Truck Loads
What it takes to get the job done.

On Monday mornings the food is loaded into the truck for the trip to the Community Food Bank. This is great exercise and takes about 20 minutes depending on how difficult it is to keep the different donations visually separate.

The food bank is only 4 miles away and takes about 15 minute per trip both ways. Then the unloading into individual shopping cart … more great exercise … is about 25 minutes. Weighing in adds another 25 minutes.

On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 4 hours each is spent collecting donations, cash and shopping at three Sprouts Supermarkets. The unloading of the S10 at home requires 15 minutes times three.

Sundays involves four people. Three take 30 minutes collecting on their respective blocks in the Miles Neighborhood. My route, including some chit chat is completed in 2 hours.

This brings the weekly total to approximately 18 man hours, give or take a few minutes. In the past 21 weeks we averaged 724 lbs. Now if we could locate 6 more volunteer teams to share an 18 hour week with us, who know how much food we would collect. Way over 100,000 lbs. in the next  five months I’m guessing.

This week’s donations amounted to 776  lbs. and included Sprouts (Speedway), 232 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 114 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 54 lbs; Miles School, 134 lbs.; Shiva Vista, 114 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 128 lbs.

The Power of One
Today is Rachael Carson’s birthday. I hear that name and I immediately know who she was and that she wrote The Silent Spring back in my early college days. The year was 1962 and the first time I became aware of DDT and other pesticides and the problems they were causing the environment.

Eventually the chemicals were banned and Rachael’s efforts awakened me and millions of other Americans to the growing dangers to our environment. Another outcome of her efforts, besides the banning of DDT, was the growth of the grassroots movement that helped create the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of our problems today are so huge—like 46 million hungry Americans—coupled with so much resistance to change that the task to set thing right seems incredibly daunting. But then Rachael and Rosa and LBJ come to mind and I just keep pressing on.

We collected a total of 128 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $4.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, May 19, 2014

280th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

What's a Go Giver?

Until last Monday I had no idea what a Go Giver was. But right after I received an email from Alena Hall, a writer at The Huffington Post, I became better informed.

In 2008 Bob Burg and John David Mann write a book, The Go Givers, which is a “little story about a powerful business idea.”

That powerful idea is if your business gives more in perceived value you will receive more in profits.  Amazon is a perfect example.

In other words you can still be a Go Getter but if you are a Go Giver, life and work is so much better. Can’t agree more.

Just a few minutes after I left a message for Alena she called back. We spoke about an hour … well, I did most of the talking while she asked me questions now and then. Seventy-two hours later the One Can A Week Go Giver profile was posted online and it turned out to be the most thoughtful and thorough piece to date.

There were specific quotes taken from Molly Thrasher’s One Can A Week video and
highlights from numerous blogs. The research Alena did for this article spoke volumes about her commitment to getting it right and her professionalism.

There were lots of likes and five very positive comments mostly focused on the fact that more folks should step up and be counted.  A year of so ago I had a similar conversation with Mayor Rothschild as he exited the elevator in his office building. I told him I appreciated his involvement with One Can A Week because he is a leader.

“When it comes to my role,” I said, “I am definitely not a leader. Every time I turn around there is never anyone following me. That’s bad for One Can A Week, but I have to tell you, it sure helps my paranoia.”

The Mayor is probably still smiling about that one and I’m still looking for folks who approach life as Go Givers, too. 

Sprouts Farmers Market  Update

Hot weather forces more trips
and smaller loads but the results are still
very BIG.
1,046 lbs. donated this week

          Wednesday                              Friday                                  Monday
 Never had to think about protecting the cans and dry goods from the heat of the day. Shade was the only concern. But now with the emergence and importance of the potato, heat and sunshine are the major concerns. My solution was to plan more trips which gave me more time to think.

As of Saturday afternoon all of the potatoes will now be housed in my very cool and dry home. They have their own special corner where they can wait a few days for transport. Generally, a bag of potatoes lasts for weeks in my home and only is discarded when little eyes form to stare back at me.

There is always a solution if one has time to think.

This week’s donations amounted to 1,046  lbs. and included River View Estates, 16 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 342 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 116 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 32 lbs; Shiva Vista, 60 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood including Axis Food Mart, 480 lbs.

Potatoes. Who Knew?!
Happenstance turned me on to potatoes because one Wednesday’s cash donation total at Sprouts-Oracle was a bit low. Cans were running 89 cents per 15 oz. while potatoes in a 5-pound bag were 35 cents a pound. A good choice, but it was the reaction at the Community Food Bank’s Agency Market that got my attention. They can’t get enough potatoes to supply their 140 local area kitchens.

When I turned in Maen’ potato donation it was out the door by the next day feeding folks. He likes that immediate response as do I. “Take my donation and feed the people now,” is how we think.

I know lots of One Can A Week participants feel the same way. So if you have access potato funds, just let me know and Sprouts Spuds will be feeding needy children and older folks in scores of soup kitchens all over town.

Axis Food Mart 54 bag donation
We collected a total of 480 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.00, a $25.00 check and $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

279th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

Food Stamps are often a bridge to prosperity.

A week … sometimes even a day … doesn’t go by without someone telling me about the rampant abuse of our welfare system. One story comes out about a guy in California who bought lobster on a SNAP card and the nay saying bullies are set for years to finger point and name call.

To counter this nonsense I break out a few facts like 40% of the folks the food bank serves are older women. “You’ve seen the photos of these grandmothers sitting on their porches. They try to get by on their $500 social security check. It just doesn’t make it. Then you have 71% of TUSD students on a full or assisted food program. No lobster there either.”

Facts shut them down when they are around me but information never changes their minds. What would change their thinking? Do they just want to see the one bad story and ignore the millions of good folks working hard to break free from poverty? Where are those stories? I know there are stories everywhere.

On a number of occasions some Sprouts shoppers have dropped a donation on the display table and say they are just giving back. They had to rely on the Community Food Bank years ago and now they are doing much better.

So I know the stories are there but how come folks, ordinary and extra ordinary folks aren’t speaking up. They probably are but like me they aren’t making much headway.

These thoughts made me mad which made me think and suddenly when I least expected it, out popped an idea.

How about if everyone who has had some serious food insecurity in their lives—famous and not so famous—copped an attitude and faced down those bullies…in unison.

I imagined a well know person wearing a T-shirt or pin button that reads: “Say Something bad about me. I was on food stamps, too.” Right away the conversation would turn to, “Well, you’re a special person and your family got into trouble.” There probably would not be any conversation at all if the pin button or T-shirt were on a Hollywood or TV star or an NFL player.

Then imagine that no matter where the bully looked, “Say Something bad about me” pin buttons and T-shirts were being worn by all kinds of folks … those who were hungry … those who are hungry now … and whose who just want to help feed the hungry.

Rosa Parks had to break a law to ignite the public to sanction stupidity. This is America, of course, so speaking ill of those seeking to feed their kids and themselves is not against the law. However, it is just as stupid as requiring citizens to give up a seat based on the color of their skin.

Show this idea to your friends and anyone of influence in Tucson. Like One Can A Week, Say Something bad about me is a very simple way to create good stories and silence the bullies who take pleasure in other folks’ pain. 

Or you can go online and make inexpensive T-shirts or pin buttons and motivate your friends that way.

Special Note: Everything I create is in the public domain. Take the idea and run with it.

  The Atlantic Charts the Frugal Lives
of Those Living on Public Assistance Programs

Back in December, Jordan Weissmann, a writer for The Atlantic took information from the Bureau of Labor Statics' 2011 Consumer Expenditure Survey and created a chart that clearly shows how meager a lifestyle those on public assistance live. Mr. Weissmann wrote: "On average, they (families) spend $30,582 in a year, compared to $66,525 for families not on public assistance."

If you are not going to produce your own Say Something bad about me T-shirt then I suggest you print out the chart above and be ready to show some reality to the next fact-challenged bully you meet. I am going to do both.

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

In no time at all cans go from the display
to the checkout line and back to the
food donation bin.

This is the new display at the Sprouts-Speedway store. Theresa, the store director said she did not like the TV table display but had no time until now to build something Sprouts-appropriate. And is it ever. By the end of the week the display looks really picked over and the bin is filled to the brim.

Bill, the security guard says it is fun to watch the shoppers spot the display, leave the checkout line briefly to select a can or three to buy for the food bank and then hurry back to the cash register.  

Yep, that is fun to watch. 

16th Truck Load – 2014
 Hot potatoes are not good when it’s the sun doing the baking so every Thursday there will be a run to the food bank right after the Sprouts – River Road stint. This keeps the potatoes cool and Fridays free for me … something that is also cool.

This week’s donations amounted to 738 lbs. and included River View Estates, 12 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 240 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 170 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 184; and Miles Neighborhood, 132 lbs.

There’s Always a Story
Greg Harrison, the warehouse records clerk was fumbling a bit counting the Miles Neighborhood donation. There were a lot of quarters. I thought he wouldn’t mind the hassle so much if he knew the reason for all that change.

Days earlier I did not have any bills but I wanted to buy a couple of lottery tickets. And so not to embarrass myself in front of my friend Maen, I exchanged my laundry money for some bills. Next he had to count all of the dollars which were given to me by John, another friend… and his friend … who just won the Kentucky Derby pool at a house party. This was their second year at winning the pool and they are starting a tradition of turning over the winnings to the Community Food Bank.

Greg finished counting the money and looked up at me with that “too much information” expression all over his face.

We collected a total of 132 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $126.00, a $25.00 check and $101.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, May 5, 2014

278th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

The Adventures of the
Convenience Store Man
and his sidekick
One Can A Week Pete

What looks to be fun and games is simply window dressing for a very serious commitment to safeguard and improve the lives of everyone in our community. Both Maen Mdanat, the owner of the Axis Food Mart and I think strategically. We may have started with a simple idea, Maen wanting to build a family friendly neighborhood store and I, a neighborhood food donation program for the Community Food Bank, but these ideas now have national implications. We recognized that potential several years ago and just kept plugging away.

Maen has a number of videos where he thwarts “shenanigans,” as KVOA’s Rebecca Taylor so aptly put it, but none captured the character of Maen until a thug decided to sucker punch him at the front door. After we came up with the name “Convenience Store Man” every thing just fell into place. An overwhelming numbers of folks writing comment say they are proud of Maen standing up to a bully. Americans just love an underdog who saves the day especially when it’s a military man or woman doing the saving.

And speaking of military men and women, that’s the bigger picture Maen want to spotlight. Convenient stores are targeted by bad guys all over this country because they are such easy marks. “Why not,” Maen asks, “hire ex-military folks to work in and/or protect convenience stores? First of all, they need the jobs and who else would be better at cleaning up a mess and keeping the peace?”

One way to get the ball rolling Maen thinks is to create a nonprofit where a cadre of ex-soldiers can be trained to protect the most troubled convenient stores in a city and grow from there. The nonprofit can also pay one ex-soldier to work at the store when things are the busiest. Over time there is a good chance that a number of ex-soldiers may like the convenient store business and become an owner just as Maen did.

With the half a million and growing views of his video, Maen now has a platform to maybe get folks attention about the jobless rate of our ex-soldiers and a possible and positive solution to the problem of convenient store trouble spots.

“An Amazing Day”
When it comes to One Can A Week the excitement it generates can’t be captured in a video. A still photo is the only thing that does it justice.

“An amazing day.” That is what Bill (on the far left); the security guard at Sprouts-Speedway said when I showed him the results of our Saturday’s donations. Four carts of watermelons, potatoes, cans and packaged goods.

Bill is the key component of those amazing results because during the week he has taken on the role of bin curator. He explains the One Can A Week program to inquisitive customers and manages the display of donated goods. Bill discovered while removing competitors’ bags from the bin that the donations look better all piled up in their natural state.

When thinking about ways to expand and strengthen the program at Sprouts I often wondered what would happen if I set up the display table on more days of the week. Would the results increase in proportion to the energy expended? Bill answered that question.

All that is needed is a casual caretaker in between the weekly four-hour personal appearances to make the bin overflow. (See photo to the right.) This is such good news because down the road when supermarkets across the country get involved in One Can A Week, it will not be an arduous commitment. One bin, one display day, one caretaker and one phone call for pickup. That is all it will take to engage thousands of customers in weekly community service. 

After recognizing what Bill discovered I thanked him for stepping up to help me. He made the program even more simple for grocery stores and their customers to participate which means his idea will be feeding more and more people in need.

Maen and I just do what we do but we also consider the big picture, too. We see a way to take on some responsibility and then follow through, just as Bill the Sprouts-Speedway security guard did.

Special Note: The name One Can A Week Pete is courtesy of the gentlemen in the Community Food Bank warehouse who help me every week. Thanks, guys!

The Convenience Store Man Video
Reaches Critical Mass
The numbers keep adding up hourly.

There were 588,420 views as of 7 pm tonight. Sunday night, May 4, 2014 at 11:46 pm the views were 562,873. The current number is 25,547 more views which translates into 1,345 clicks per hour. That’s critical mass at work. 

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

Another 1,000 Pound Plus Truck Load

15th Truck Load – 2014
Friday I was too busy to make a run to the Community Food Bank … a good thing … so today I piled all of the food into the truck but took two photos. On the left is the 820 lbs. of food we collected at the three Sprouts Farmers Markets. On top of that, (right photo) is all of the food from Miles, DKA, Shiva Vista and River View Estates. The Chevy S10 payload is 1,171 so that was close.

This week’s donations amounted to 1,084 lbs. and included River View Estates, 16 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 380 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 216 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 224; Shiva Vista, 60 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 188 lbs.

Change for the better … all the way around – When CVS announced they were going to not sell cigarettes after October, 2014 I decided to switch my prescription to the CVS University store even though it will cost me $15.00 more.

When I called today to check on the status, the pharmacist remembered me and the medicines I requested. That never happened …ever … in my 15 or so years of dealing with Walgreens. More often than not I had to correct my standing order.

As my friend, John Gallow says when struggling with customer service, “If I pay you a little more can I get what I want?” That always made me laugh but not any more. CVS showed me what John was talking about.  

We collected a total of 188 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $7.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,