This is about logistics. Singer, songwriter, philosopher, the late Harry Chapin used to say, "Do something!" He said it at his concerts and was referring to doing something for the less fortunate among us. Chapin performed one night for himself and one night for others. It was his way of doing something.
You, too, can do something. America's Second Harvest has as its goal, ending hunger in America. For 25 years it's been doing an incredible job. It has grown from a single food bank to 213 food banks with nearly seven million square feet of warehouse space. The organization brings food to 23.3 million hungry people in this country every day. It provides 1.8 billion pounds of food and groceries from 550 national donors and thousands of local donors. That's a lot of warehousing, material handling and distribution.
Here's the rub. The efficiencies you strive for on a daily basis in the supply chain are having a negative impact on America's Second Harvest. As you've gotten better at shrinking inventories, there has been less non-salable product available.
A couple dozen supply chain executives learned about the America's Second Harvest program from its director, Earthyn Cousins, at the Warehousing Education and Research Council's annual conference. Cousins says along with the never-ending need for food and cash donations, the organization can use any and all material handling equipment from tires to conveyors, packaging material to lift trucks.
"We've moved more than 40 billion pounds of food in the last 25 years, serving more than 37 million Americans," says the articulate Cousins, a former member of President Clinton's administration. "While the homeless person is the face most people see when they think of hunger in America, in fact only 10 percent of the people going hungry in this country are homeless. Most people who are hungry are employed, living paycheck to shrinking paycheck."
The face of hunger is the face of people in your building. Forty-five percent of the hungry people in America must choose between heating and eating. As Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart, noted at the same conference, given the current rise in gasoline prices, Americans are spending seven dollars a month more for gasoline than six months ago. Seven dollars that they could have spent at Wal-Mart, I think was his assumption. For others, it means seven dollars less they have for food.
Cousins says her organization is also seeing another entry of people into the "food insecure" community. "We're now working with the National Guard to provide food for the families of women and men serving in Iraq."
America's Second Harvest makes it easy for those of us in material handling to participate. If you have something -- anything -- to donate, America's Second Harvest has a program called Donor Express that can help. You simply call or e-mail for pickup information. Whether it's racks or ribs, America's Second Harvest will take it. And when it does, it'll bring along the necessary tax documents so you will benefit that way, too.
If you have nothing to donate it will take that as well. "We have a number of arrangements with 3PLs," says Cousins, "to provide empty space for us, along with the use of lift trucks to move product."
Technology assistance is another area where America's Second Harvest can use your expertise. Its food tracking program is admirable. Nothing fancy. Forget the buzz acronyms. Just people counting and keeping track to ensure that donated food does not get back into the marketplace.
Creating a hunger-free America is a big job. No one's asking you to find the way. The path is well blazed by America's Second Harvest. You're being asked to join in. If you want more information, go to www.secondharvest.org. If you have something you don't know what to do with, give me a call at 216-931-9434. I'll make sure you get into contact with the right person.
Do something. Do the right thing. And be sure to clean your plate tonight. There are children going hungry in America.
Clyde E. Witt, executive editor