The PCC Food Bank Program has supported communities served by Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets (PCC) since 1989. Originally known as Cash for the Hungry, the program relies primarily on cash donations from PCC shoppers – made online, by mail or at check out – for the purchase of nutritious bulk food. PCC uses 100 percent of these donations to purchase staples such as grains, pasta, beans and pancake mix, which are repackaged by volunteers at work parties held bi-monthly year-round at each of PCC’s ten partner food banks. The smaller bags of food, labeled with nutritional information and preparation instructions, are distributed to food bank clients.
More than 1.3 million pounds of food have been distributed since the program began; 72,000 pounds in 2013 alone. PCC buys the food at wholesale prices, thereby stretching the buying power of customer contributions. The costs of packaging supplies, refreshments for work party volunteers and program promotion are donated by PCC, as well as staff time devoted to administering it.
In addition to year-round food bank support, the PCC Food Bank Program includes four seasonal in-store cash-for-food drives. Program funding also comes from customers who are offered a 5 cent deduction from their PCC purchase total for each reusable bag they bring. More than 92 percent of shoppers eligible for this rebate elect to donate it. PCC allocates half of donated rebates to the PCC Food Bank Program and half to the PCC Farmland Trust, an independent program that works to preserve farmland in Washington State.
PCC is the nation’s largest consumer-owned and operated natural foods retailer. As both a co-op and a triple bottom line company, community building and support have always been central to its mission. PCC actively promotes and maintains several programs and practices that focus on community outreach, consumer education and environmental stewardship. Examples include the almost 25-year old PCC Food Bank Program, the 30-year old PCC Cooks Program, 14-year old PCC Farmland Trust and 4-year PCC Healthy Kids Initiative. In addition to these company-wide efforts, each of PCC’s nine, greater Seattle locations operates as a neighborhood store, providing financial and in-kind support to community programs and events.
The overall intent of the PCC Food Bank Program is to help reduce hunger in neighborhoods served by PCC but there are two important underlying objectives, as well. One is to give PCC shoppers a way to make personal contributions of time and money to those in need in their communities such that each minute and penny counts. The other is to bring awareness to the fact that hunger is a year-round issue and not just a holiday need.
Not a specific objective, but a very positive outcome, is the camaraderie brought about by the program’s work parties. Many volunteers have been attending the 2-hour repackaging events for many years, as they enjoy these opportunities to see old friends and to make new ones. Family members, including children as young as six years old, work side-by-side; older children are welcome to attend and earn community service credit.
On average, the PCC Food Bank Program provides almost 7,200 pounds of food (the equivalent of about 96,575 servings) annually to each of its ten partner food banks. The program has always focused on nutritious bulk food that can be used in a variety of menu-stretching ways to feed individuals and families. Each food bank may request a different combination of food items, depending on the particular needs, preferences and cultural composition of their clients.
The PCC Food Bank Program has been recognized publicly (U.S. Mayors’ End Hunger Award, 1995; Pacific Northwest Good Works Award, Honorable Mention, 1999) but the most rewarding acknowledgment comes from PCC shoppers who month after month, year after year, give of their time and money to make the program work. Each year about 1,440 volunteer hours are donated towards bulk food repackaging.
“The PCC Food Bank Program is a wonderful way to combine the generosity of our shoppers with the resources of our company and our partner food banks to respond to the ongoing need to reduce hunger in our neighborhoods. It is a successful model of outreach and support that can be easily replicated in communities across the country.”
Tracy Wolpert, CEO
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