Will Allen issues challenge, gets anonymous donation
Milwaukee’s foremost farmer, Will Allen of Growing Power, decided to make some hard-pressed households warmer for Christmas by personally donating 100 baskets of food to hungry families. Then he contacted some of the new friends he has made this year in Milwaukee’s corporate circles to see who else might ante up to help make Yuletides brighter for those most in need.
In the truest spirit of giving – that is, giving without the expectation of getting in return – a Fortune 500 company based here instantly agreed to match Allen’s donation. But it asked that it not be named in any publicity of the event. Its gift will help feed another 100 needy families, but the giver will remain anonymous.
Each food basket is the same as those produced and distributed year-round through Growing Power’s Market Basket program, which provides a week’s supply of fresh produce to a family at below market prices.
Allen’s donation is worth $2,000, as is that of the anonymous corporate donor. Basic Growing Power Market Baskets to feed a family of four for a week cost $16 – the retail value of the food is at least $25 – and the balance of the gift is the overhead cost of distribution to the families.
The recipients of the donations are: The Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin (50 baskets), Maple Tree School (50 baskets), the Silver Spring Neighborhood Community Center (50 baskets), the Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club (25 baskets), and the Sherman Park Community Organization (25 baskets). These organizations will distribute the food where the need is felt most among the families and children they serve.
Allen’s gift is personal, not an imposition on the non-profit operations of Growing Power, an organization he founded and directs. Likewise, the anonymous corporate giver is reaching into its pockets without asking anything from employees, customers or shareholders.
“A lot of people have been getting coals in their stockings this Christmas, in the form of pink slips from their employers,” Allen said. “Looking back, I felt like in most departments, I’d had a pretty good year compared to a lot of folks, and I wanted to share that with some of those less fortunate.
“It isn’t like there aren’t plenty of stores of food available in this rich country; it’s that there are so many who haven’t the riches to afford it. And that’s a crying shame, especially during the holidays. We’re talking about basic food on the table, not about a turkey with all the trimmings.
“What I didn’t expect was, before the ink was dry on a letter I sent to a few corporate partners we’ve developed this year, that I would get back an answer that said, basically, ‘Count us in for an equal number of food baskets – but we don’t want or need any recognition. Just make sure the food gets where it’s needed most.’
“This is humbling. This is reassuring. This tells me that we are getting back to the spirit not just of the holidays but the spirit of constant caring for our community. I have no doubt that this same company would have responded last month, next month, or six months from now in the same fashion: ‘If there is a need, we will help. Just tell us how.’
“Let me tell you, this does my heart good.”
You can help, too. It’s still a week until Christmas, and if you would like to help a family in need of food with a Market Basket, now or throughout the year, call Growing Power, (414) 527-1546.
Chase cultivates better future for families with a $150,000 grant to Growing Power.
Chase announced last week that it will give Growing Power, the urban farm center, a grant of $150,000 to fight rising malnourishment in Milwaukee and across America. The inaccessibility of healthy and affordable food is a major challenge for families struggling with unemployment and poverty. “There are many worthy causes in need of support, but few as compelling as ensuring that families and children have healthy food on their tables,” said Jim Popp, Wisconsin market president for Chase. “Chase is happy to support Growing Power on these projects where the people in and from the community will help drive its success.” The donation from Chase will bolster the front line of the battle against hunger in the classrooms and cafeterias of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). The grant will expand the “Farm Fresh to MPS” program where Growing Power delivers fresh, wholesome, locally grown produce to Milwaukee school children who seldom have access to such foods at home. In addition, Growing Power will develop and deliver a curriculum that focuses on the biologic, ecologic and economic advantages on urban farming. The program will reach all 112 MPS elementary schools by the end of the three-year project. A portion of the grant also will go toward “Growing Empowered Families through Community Food System Development,” a regional outreach program. This program focuses on workforce development and urban farming in Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin. It provides job training and technical assistance to help families and neighborhoods build sustainable communitybased food systems, such as community gardens. Growing Power is a national nonprofit and land trust dedicated to providing access to safe, wholesome and affordable food for all, regardless of age, background or circumstances. Since 1995, the organization has promoted food security through the creation of community food systems that provide a safety net for those in need and a source of better food for all who want it. Since the severe economic downturn of 2008, Growing Power has amplified its efforts as need has grown nationwide. “I can’t thank Chase enough for recognizing the need and stepping up. This is a very meaningful commitment to the struggle, and I intend to see that this gift grows like salad from the seed,” said Will Allen, Growing Power founder and CEO. “We are stepping up our food programs on every front,” said Allen.“When the USDA announces, as it did recently, that at least 14 percent of American families don’t have enough money to provide themselves an adequate diet, that’s a cry for help from our own government.”