This year marks the 100th anniversary of C&S Wholesale Grocers. To commemorate that milestone, and as an expression of our values, we felt that it was important to give back to our communities in a hands-on way. What we decided to do engaged hundreds of employees at C&S in a community service/outreach project that was impactful, high-touch and fun. Our plan had three prongs: First (and foremost) to make a difference for local families and individuals who are experiencing food insecurity, Second: to leverage the number 100, and Third: to come together to celebrate our company’s centennial. To accomplish that, we decided to pack (and donate) 100,000 meals for local people who are at-risk of food insecurity. In two sessions – one in June with members of our senior leadership team from around the country, and another in August with employees from our corporate headquarters in Keene, New Hampshire – we did just that. And, we did it in less than two hours! With words of inspiration from our CEO and Executive Chairman to set the tone, C&Sers rolled up their sleeves, and created 100,000+ meals for people served by local hunger relief groups. Our community outreach initiative had a party-like atmosphere, with everyone wearing groovy hairnets and commemorative T-shirts while volunteering shoulder-to-shoulder to pack dry ingredients into meals. With hallmark teamwork and the C&S can-do spirit (along with spontaneous dancing and much laughter) we got the job done and exceeded our own goal.
C&S partnered with three well-respected nonprofit organizations to help us make our 100K meal community outreach/service project a success: The Pack Shack -- Established in 2013, their mission is to supply meals for neighbors in need. The Pack Shack has developed a system for large groups to measure and assemble meals. Using funnels and safe food handling protocols, dry ingredients are scooped into bags, heat-sealed, and packed into cases. The meals are ready-to-eat by adding boiling water. The packaging is attractive and dignified; it includes nutrition information in English and Spanish. C&S engaged The Pack Shack to provide guidance, the ingredients, the funnels, scoops and other components for the project. NH Food Bank and VT Foodbank -- With their assistance, the meals we packed were distributed to 40 local foodbank agencies that are on the ‘front lines’ of addressing hunger, including community kitchens, food pantries, BackPack programs and school pantries.
Our objectives around packing and donating 100,000 meals to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of C&S Wholesale Grocers was to execute a community outreach/service project that was -- • High-energy and hands-on • Meaningful and aligned with our corporate citizenship priorities • An opportunity to foster teamwork • A high-visibility contributor to the C&S brand, reputation, and goodwill • A platform for senior leadership to deliver remarks about the 100th • Memorable and fun. Additional objectives were to -- • Address an issue with deep significance to C&S (hunger) • Elevate employee volunteerism, engagement and experience • Educate employees on the issue of hunger • Leverage key learnings from past volunteerism initiatives • Add value to the community • Collaborate with nonprofit partners • Demonstrate our focus on making a difference. We achieved all of that, and more!
Our two nonprofit local partners have the following to say about impact -- From the New Hampshire Food Bank: The Hunger Free Weekend program we started with C&S in 2017 identified schools with the highest number of kids receiving free and reduced lunch. Six of our agencies partnered with those schools and nearly 400 students have benefited. C&S has committed to sustain the Hunger Free Weekend program with grant funding and with the meals packed and donated by their employees. Knowing that students who experience hunger have more behavioral, emotional and mental health problems, poorer grades and are more likely to receive special education services or mental health counseling, C&S has positively impacted the lives of these children in their community to avoid these problems. From the Vermont Foodbank: It is difficult for Vermont Foodbank network partners to measure the impact of food distributed to those in need due to their very limited resources. We can, however, look at the big picture. Overall, the number of persons in Vermont who are food insecure is declining, thanks in part to support from organizations like C&S Wholesale Grocers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average percentage of persons in Vermont who are rated as food insecure is 9.8% (2015-2017) down from an average of 11.4% (2013-2015). However approximately 1 in 4 Vermonters still access Foodbank resources each year.
After participating in one of the meal packing sessions, Mike Duffy, the Chief Executive Officer of C&S Wholesale Grocers, said, “This was a great example of how we come together as one team. It was inspirational to see how much our employees value making a difference in the community. We all worked quickly to get this done, and we had fun while doing it.”
Here are wonderful statements of support: NH Food Bank: C&S is a strong and generous supporter of ours with a laser-like focus on fighting hunger. Most recently their employees packed and donated 72,000 meals to NHFB agencies in the region. That type of herculean effort is one example of their commitment to our shared mission of ending hunger. VT Foodbank: This summer, C&S packaged and donated 30,000 meals for food-insecure Vermonters. Meals were distributed to Vermont Foodbank network partner foodshelves. The meals were very popular, and we received a lot of positive feedback. One client said of the food: “You folks keep my head above water. Without you, I don’t know what I would do.” The Pack Shack: You are helping create a community of people who know and care for one another. Working with compassionate people who take action to serve their neighbors in need is a great pleasure!