Monday, June 30, 2014

286th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

Poor and Easy Should Never Appear Together
in the Same Sentence.

The questions was “Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently, or poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything?”

What? That is about the dumbest question I have ever heard because poor folks with or without help always have it hard. And it’s almost always attributable to poor education options, prejudice, low pay and little or no upwardly mobile employment opportunity. So this is a fact and should never be discussed as if someone’s opinion is a viable position on the subject.

And such socially acceptable “opinion” discussions create a stigma that mars a person’s self esteem for life. I learned that Thursday and to tell the truth, if I had given this matter more thought in the past I would have figured that out myself.

A man about 55-years-old stopped by the table at Sprouts-River Road and asked about the Say Something Bad About Me T-Shirt I sell for $20. I explained that the idea behind the T-Shirt was a humorous and pointed way to confront bullies who deride people on government assistance. As he reached for his wallet the smile dropped from his face.

“Let me tell you about those morons” was his opening salvo. He had a rough childhood because his dad had a difficult time staying employed. He didn’t know way. That was just the way it was. But when he was able to take on responsibility for himself he worked his way through school and makes a hefty salary now. 

“I pay taxes, give to charities and am a responsible citizen,” he said in his defense. “Why they continue to put down people who needed help when they were kids is beyond me. Let me have the shirt, this is a great way to confront those people.”

Although he was smiling again I realized my T-shirt idea was not only a way to silence socially inept people, it also brings out the hurt of a deep seeded stigma that never relents no matter how successful one becomes.

This insight took my smile away.

The next time Pew Research does an opinion survey on the poor they should compose questions that do more than determine the obvious; i.e., liberals are more sympathetic to the plight of others than conservatives. For instance, a question might state: Do poor people—whether they are on government assistance or not—have a hard life in a country as wealthy as America? If you answer anything other than Yes, you will not be asked to give your opinion on any other social issue … ever.

This would go a long way to silence those people who shouldn’t be talking anyway. Those bullies hurt people for as long as they live whether they were poor or are poor now.

 Sprouts Farmers Market Update

In less than one year Sprouts’ customers have donated more than 7.3 tons of food. That’s 14,638 pounds which fed more than 3,750 kids and their parents three meals in one day.

A Historic Photo – Collected so much food and so much money on Saturday at Sprouts – Speedway, I graduated to a six-wheel cart and needed help loading the truck. Total weight – 434 lbs. of potatoes and 106 lbs. of packaged goods.

Yet Another 1,000+ Pound Week

23rd Truck Load – 2014
Last week we set a goal of 300 five pound bags of potatoes per week to meet the demand at the 140 kitchens in the city. On Monday we delivered 130 bags or 43% of our intended goal. No planning, it just happened. With a little thought and promotion, it looks like supplying the kitchens will be a piece of … potato cake.

This week’s donations amounted to 1,032 lbs. and included Sprouts (Speedway), 540 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 230 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 122 lbs; Shiva Vista, 40 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 100 lbs.

The Rincon Market looks the same … only better – On Friday Maen and I had lunch at the new and improved Rincon Market. They now have an expanded fresh produce section and several draft beers on tap for a more hearty lunch or dinner. Even with all of the activity I had a chance to say a few words to Ron, Kelly and their son John. It was great … so you’ve got to get over there soon.

We collected a total of 100 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $33.00, a $25.00 check and $8.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, June 23, 2014

285th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Success is a Potato

When I asked Bill Beatty the Coordinator of the Community Food Bank’s Agency Market about the need for potatoes we’ve been donating he replied, “They are gold. All of the 140 kitchens need them.”

He then went on to elaborate. “One of my clients was pushing a full cart of potatoes and she also had three bags in her hand. I told her we have to share those potatoes so you have to put some back. She wheeled the cart around and dropped off the three bags. No, I said, that’s not right, leave the cart and take the three bags.”

Over the past few weeks I have told Bill’s story to emphasize the great need for such a common staple and got a lot of laughs. But seconds later I also got a lot of concerned looks. How is it possible that a food that is so abundant and so inexpensive can be so scarce?

The answer probably has something to do with weight and packaging. A bag of potatoes is heavy yet offers a convenient supply—at least 14 potatoes per five pound bag. Consequently, folks don’t have to think about buying potatoes for a while after they’ve purchased a bag and dragged it home. The potato acquiring process then becomes “out of sight, out of mind.” And who ever thinks about donating a bag of potatoes? That’s really not much money to spend to help the hungry.

Chasing a Hit
My whole career has been focused on consumer success whether it was the national advertising ads I wrote, the reference books I authored or USB pet tag I designed. I wanted to make money and help folks. Little success in the money department but I had a high satisfaction rate for doing worthwhile projects. Recently when I discovered the great demand for a simple food at all of the 140 kitchens in town I decided to focus my attention on filling that demand. It’s working and every week more and more potatoes are donated to the kitchens. The target number is 300 five pound bags per week which would cost between $450 and $564 based on the current pricing (see below). To date the most I’ve collected in one week was $195.00. This means that with more subtle urging of the Sprouts customers on my part the 300 potato bag goal is doable. 

You, too, can help by visiting any Sprouts Farmers Market to buy a bag or two of potatoes. The price fluctuates between $1.50 and $1.99 for a five pound bag. Or if you like, give me a cash donation and I will do the buying for you. That’s what Maen at the Axis Food Mart does and you can see what $45.00 looks like in the two shopping cart photo above.

Imagine if we could eliminate potato hunger at the 140 kitchens in town. That would be a huge success. It would also encourage others to end peanut butter and cereal hunger for all of the kids here in Tucson. Nothing is impossible to overcome when you nibble away at it a little bit every week.  

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

22nd Truck Load – 2014
Potatoes are shipped in huge bags stuffed with 10 5 lb. bags. (See photo on the left.) Strong produce clerks lay them flat in the shopping cart using lots of arm and back strength. Older customers stand them on end so they can be bear hugged out of the shopping cart and into the truck. Just thought you’d like to know.

This week’s donations amounted to 708 lbs. and included Sprouts (Speedway), 210 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 246 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 128 lbs and Miles Neighborhood, 124 lbs.

Just a reminderThe Rincon Market will be open this Friday, June 27 at 7 am. I’m going to have lunch there so why not plan on joining me around noon. It will be lots of fun seeing old friends again.

We collected a total of 124 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $30.00, a $25.00 check and $5.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

284th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
The Rincon Market is BACK.

Two days short of the one year anniversary of their July 2, 2013 fire, The Rincon Market will open its doors and celebrate a much anticipated Grand Opening. The date …  Monday, June 30 from 7 am to 9 pm. 

To make sure everything runs smoothing on Grand Opening Day, The Rincon Market will open for the first time on Friday, June 27th at 7 am. Then again at 7 am on Saturday and Sunday. This will be a great opportunity for you to stop by and say hello to Ron and Kelly and the rest of the Abbott family. So go spend some money and tell them how much you appreciate all of their hard work and commitment to bringing a very important Tucson icon back to life.

Fighting Fire with Facts

A critically acclaimed documentary by Robert Reich,
former Secretary of Labor under Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton.
Click on the photo or Mr. Reich’s name to learn more about downloading the video.

Robert Reich, currently the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkley, thinks his stature is the perfect size to “stand up for the little guy.” As he grew up he always had to protect himself against abuse from big guys who regularly made fun of him. Now that he is a renowned economist he is more than prepared to confront and fend off conservatives who perpetuate false statements and misinformation concerning the poor in America.

And his approach is very blunt. In an op-ed piece on the Huffington Post this weekend, “The Three Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Poverty,” Mr. Reich succinctly states the facts, quickly refuting each of the three lies. This is the same approach I use when folks say inane and ignorant things to me. As cordially as possible I beat them up with the facts.

I thought you might appreciate hearing some of those facts from an expert so I’ve listed the lies and the responses below in kind of a Cliff Notes style … direct and to the point.

“Lie #1: Economic growth reduces poverty
  1. “Since the late 1970s, the economy has grown 147 percent per capita but almost nothing has trickled down.” (Editor’s note: I think the conservatives purposefully picked the word “trickle” because a trickle of water, say, only goes a short distance and then dries up.)
  1. “The typical American worker is earning just about what he or she earned three decades ago, adjusted for inflation.”
  1.  “…forty years ago the richest 1 percent of Americans got 9 percent of total income. Today, they get over 20 percent.
  1. “…the lesson we should have learned from the past three decades is economic growth by itself doesn’t reduce poverty.
“Lie # 2; Jobs reduce poverty.
  1. Around one-fourth of all American workers are now in jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.
  1. While low-paying industries such as retail and fast food accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then…”
  1. “...the real value of the minimum wage continues to drop. This has affected female workers more than men because more women are at the minimum wage. (Editor’s note: This is just one more reason why single moms have it so hard.)
  1. “…government assistance now typically requires recipients to be working. This hasn’t meant fewer poor people. It’s just meant more poor people have jobs.
  1. “Work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percent of Americans in poverty. They’ve merely increased the number of working poor — a tern that should be an oxymoron.”
Lie #3: Ambition cures poverty.
  1. “…there’s no evidence that people who are poor are less ambitious than anyone else. In fact, many work long hours at backbreaking jobs.
  1. “What they really lack is opportunity. It begins with lousy schools.”
  1. America is one of only three advanced countries that spends less on the education of poorer children than richer ones…”
  1. “…what the poor really need – good-paying jobs, adequate safety nets, and excellent schools.”
  1. “These things cost money. Lies are cheaper.”
I suggest you read Mr. Reiche’s Huffington Post article in full and try to remember the facts when you are next confronted with some hurtful statements about struggling Americans. We’re all in this boat together and if we don’t acknowledge this fact, the next perfect storm will sink us all.

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

21st Truck Load – 2014
Lately, the Axis Food Mart’s Food Bank canister collects approximately $40 per month in coins and bills. This is very impressive especially when that money turned into 124 lbs. of potatoes last Tuesday.

This week’s donations amounted to 805 lbs. and included Sprouts (Speedway), 194 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 309 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 56 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood including The Axis Food Mart, 246 lbs.

Mannequins for the Poor
In Amsterdam, JWT Advertising Agency created a campaign for BADT, a nonprofit that helps 
homeless people in the city. They shabbily dressing mannequins and placing them on the streets with signs asking for help. The response was pretty good with many people stopping to read the signs, take photos and donate. A spokesperson said, "The idea is that the mannequin eliminates the invisible barrier that seems to separate 'us' from 'them.'"

What a silly observation. If the mannequins were filthy and appeared germ ridden, no one would have taken a second look and not a penny would have been raised. People have to have sympathy—better yet, empathy—for the reality, and engage over a long period of time. Momentary ‘cute’ is just not a solution for helping the homeless … or anyone else for that matter.  And such antics are so disrespectful.        

We collected a total of 246 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $30.00, a $25.00 check and $5.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, June 9, 2014

283rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

If You Like On Demand Movies,
You Are Going To Love
On Demand Neighborhood Participation.

Shortly after I joined the Miles Neighborhood Association I began thinking about ways to increase participation in the monthly meetings. When the BMX Park was on the agenda, there were lots of folks interested in the outcome and attendance was high. Before and after … not so much. Also older neighbors where having a difficult time negotiating steps and curbs when they came to the meetings. Soon they stopped coming, too.

The Mile Neighborhood has its own official, secure website.
Names, addresses and emails of neighbors are verified online
and via postcards. Strong net security.
At least five years have gone by and I still have no idea how to help get neighbors involved in the neighborhood. Then in Wednesday’s mail I received a postcard from Danielle Schoon, a neighbor on E. 12th Street. She asked me to join a website called Generally I pitch postcards but since it had Danielle’s name and address on it, I forced myself to take a closer look. As I typed in the special code, I was thinking, “Oh, boy, I hope this is not a trap.”  I’m not paranoid but I do have tendencies. Anyway, everything looked terribly simple and terribly direct. I could see what I was getting into and a smile crept across my face. “This is incredible. It’s Facebook tailored for my Miles Neighborhood,” I thought.

Next I read their whole About page … a first for me … and discovered they were a serious social network organization funded by some very serious Silicon Valley investment groups. In fact, the founder is Nirav Tolia who was involved with Epinions and

A fun feature is the map of the Miles Neighborhood and the

satellite photo. Both are very accurate and easy to use. Each neighbor is located on the street map.

Further research turned up their 2010 founding date and their October 26, 2011 website launch. When I returned to the Miles/Next website I gladly filled out all of the requested info—without the bio— and clicked send. A few minutes later I was in. My first click was to send an invitation to Robert Hadel, a friend and the neighborhood association’s Co-chair. Then I invited Greg Clark another friend who currently is deeply involved in the Broadway Widening Project.  

Within hours they both got back to me and told me they joined. They saw the neighborhood and community building opportunities immediately. All kinds of neighborhood situations could be discussed online such as pot holes and placement of those free Roll-off bins without scheduling meetings and interfering with peoples’ busy lives. Neighbors, too, can quickly voice there concerns or issues and probably receive helpful responses in minutes. And they never have to schedule or attend another neighborhood meeting. This is how life is supposed to be in the tech lane.

Even older neighbors can engage. Their kids just sign them up and on every visit check out their NextDoor invites or comments. How hard is that?

Please go to and sign up or wait for me to send you an invitation during the week.

If you do not live in the Miles Neighborhood that does not matter. You can sign up in your neighborhood and ask you neighbors to join you.

I’m not crazy about Facebook because I don’t much care to hear about what someone ate for lunch. But  That’s different. I do care about everything involving my neighbors.

Sprouts Farmers Market Update
On July 29, the Sprouts One Can A Week program will celebrate its First Anniversary. To date the Sprouts customers have donated over 6.3 tons of food. When two more volunteers help bring all five Tucson supermarkets on line, the annual tonnage will be remarkable.

616 lbs. of the 1,058 lbs. Donated to the
Community Food Bank This Week
were Potatoes.


20th Truck Load – 2014
Since there are 140 local kitchens served by The Agency Market at the Community Food Bank each could have received just under one full bag of potatoes or 4.4 lbs. Of course that is nowhere near enough potatoes for the demand each kitchen is experiencing. 

My next goal is go from 120 5-pound bags (most weigh slightly more than 5 lbs.) to 140 bags which will cost approximately $210. (As an aside, this week Sprouts offered their quality potatoes at 2 5-pound bags for $3.00. That’s an amazing 30 cents per pound.)

A few more conversations with Sprouts customers about the shortage of potatoes at Tucson’s charity kitchens and my drive to feed as many older woman and kids as possible should provide the impetus to collect a couple more $20 bills each week.

This week’s donations amounted to 1,058  lbs. and included Ward 6, 106 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 268 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 370 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 122 lbs; Shiva Vista, 52 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 140 lbs. is already working – About 6 pm tonight I got a surprise call from Lorraine Aguilar, the matriarch of our Miles Neighborhood. She had just received a postcard from Danielle Schoon on 12th Street about and wanted to know what it was all about. Lorraine laughed and said they don’t have a computer in the house. “In fact, we’re lucky to have a phone and a TV.”

Lorraine really liked the idea especially when I told her that her daughter Candy could handle all of the technical stuff and help bring her voice back into the conversation about her neighborhood without having to leave her home. She still is a bit afraid of the computer but now that she has a new way to speak to her neighbors, things don’t look so scary.

We collected a total of 140 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $65.00, a $25.00 check and $40.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, June 2, 2014

282nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Dressing for Food Collecting Success

Cele Peterson, the Grande Dame of women’s fashions here in Tucson told me a story that sounded more like a fable from our distant past. She died in 2010 so our conversation happened in Cele’s El
Mercado Mall store in the late 90s.

When Cele was still located downtown she said one day a woman wearing a coat that had seen better days came into the shop. The sales staff was a bit repulsed but Cele did not hesitate to offer her help. That gesture of common humanity turned into one of the store’s largest sales. The woman was wealthy and decided it was high time for an upgraded.

Throughout the years, Cele told that story to all of her new employees in an effort to help them learn that judging folks by the cut of their clothes is a sure way to miss many disguised opportunities.

Apparently, not everyone has heard Cele’s parable and many are still making judgment based on appearances.

In the past few weeks, the donations at both the Sprouts-Oracle and Sprouts-River Road stores have been somewhat paltry. On the other hand, Sprouts-Speedway donations were stellar. What could be causing the disparity?

I do select my Sprouts wardrobe to project a little so the customers can see me standing there almost motionless. Red is a good color as is a sweatshirt with a photograph of Adam my Westie emblazoned on the front. On Wednesday I decided to look more upscale corporate and wear a button down blue pinstriped shirt at the Oracle store. The cash donations generated 236 lbs. of potatoes. Wow, that was terrific.

Since Wednesday evening was laundry night this week I was ready with the blue pinstriped shirt for my Sprouts-River Road stint the next day. Single dollars came in slowly so I was worried that River Road would be meager again this week. Then I got a couple of $5 bills. A little later a woman, somewhat meekly slid a folded $20 bill under the $1 bills on the side of the basket. Another “Wow, terrific day.”

This week Sprouts customers have donated $163.91 in cash which purchased 93 5-pound bags of potatoes for a total weight of 484 lbs. With 5-pound bags containing approximately 13 potatoes each, a baked potato is going to end up on 1,209 lunch or dinner plates in a day or two.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to judge folks on any scale, clothes or otherwise, but knowing that people still do … and considering how many people are depending on the 140 kitchens around our city … you can bet I am going to lean a little harder on the corporate look and dress, as they say, for success.   

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

19th Truck Load – 2014
The most interesting thing about collecting all this food each week is the Miles Neighborhood is averaging around 190 lbs. per week. That’s down from the 256 lbs. average when we first started, but think about it, after five and one-half years of picking up food every Sunday, we are still going strong. This is some happy news.

This week’s donations amounted to 794  lbs. and included Sprouts (Speedway), 270 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 254 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 116 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 154 lbs.

Upworthy – A couple of years ago an arrogate website called Upworthy was launched. It is similar to TED in that it collects and disseminates interesting and important information.
But instead of talks, they link to the original material which is mostly videos. My first selection was a Carl Sagan film entitled “A Universe Not Made for Us.” I was particular struck by his closing remarks.

“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes, but knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”

Ending hunger should do it. Well, anyway, that works for me.

We collected a total of 154 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $30.00, a $25.00 check and $5.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,