Walmart and Feeding America have joined forces this April to roll back the number of Americans going to bed hungry. Now in its second year, the Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign seeks to donate up to $3 million to Feeding America and secure 75 million meals for food banks across the country during a critical time in the quarter when donations significantly decrease post-holiday season.
Food companies committed to the initiative, such as Campbell Soup, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft and Unilever, have identified 240 products that customers can purchase in-store to help donate to the cause. According to the disclaimers on the campaign’s website, for every participating product purchased at Walmart between April 6 and May 3, the manufacturer will donate 10 cents to Feeding America -- enough to secure one meal on behalf of local food banks.
During the campaign period, ending May 3, Walmart shoppers can also provide monetary donations of $1, $2 or $5 to a local Feeding America Food Bank at the register.
Public participation in the campaign doesn’t end at the register. Social media is also being used as a tool to help digitally-savvy shoppers participate in the initiative by tagging selfies with friends using #WeSparkChange. For every photo posted to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the campaign's hashtag, Walmart will donate $10 with a maximum donation of $1.5 million.
"Hunger is largely pervasive in this country,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation. “Through this campaign, we want to engage customers more directly by creating a movement to spread awareness about this growing issue in our country.”
According to the USDA, 1 in 6 Americans still struggle with food insecurity. Considering that some states are pulling back accessibility to food stamps as the economy continues to “recover," stringent policies and continued unemployment for thousands of Americans will more than likely contribute to swells at already burdened food banks.
As the nation’s largest grocer with almost 5,000 stores across the country, Walmart is leveraging both its assets and its relationships with leading food companies to help ensure both private and public problem-solving on this very real and grim issue.
The call-to-action for brands and the general public to provide meals for those in need is noble. However, it begs the question as to how our society will close the food insecurity gap for those that are heavily dependent on a fluctuating food source.
When we look at this issue in its totality, the annual food need shows no signs of reversing its direction. In 2014 alone, the Feeding America network of food banks provided 3.3 billion meals to 46 million people. By 2018, the organization hopes to increase that number to 3.6 billion.
“When the 2007 recession hit, we saw a dramatic increase in the amount of people our network served,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “Hunger increased by 46 percent, and there is still a sustained need for families getting by but still needing extra help.”
The Feeding America network alone spans over 6,000 food pantries in cities, suburbs and rural communities across the nation — eliminating the notion that hunger is merely the problem that densely-populated cities must solve.
In 2013, Feeding America released Map the Meal Gap, an interactive map that allows users to search their state and learn about neighbors and communities struggling with hunger and the food banks that serve them.
While a cash register donation and images shared across social media seem like only a drop in the bucket for a behemoth of a problem, both Aiken and McLaughlin are optimistic -- believing that hunger is totally solvable, albeit not unmet with extreme challenge. Their resolve? It’s going to take time and a lot of sleeves rolled up to the elbows -- by way of strategic partnerships with hyper-local business communities, government, research institutions and other charitable organizations committed to developing the necessary data and support systems to provide individuals with the help that they need.
To learn more about the Fight Hunger Spark Change initiative, how you can participate and to see how many meals have been secured thus far, visit the campaign website here.
Image credit: Walmart
Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.