How One Company Is Tackling the Ever-Present Present Danger of Food Insecurity
The USDA’s Household Food Insecurity in the United States report shows that more than 38 million people experienced hunger in 2020, a daunting 11.5% of Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic drove those numbers even further, with 42 million people, or 12.8% of the population, potentially affected by food insecurity. This pervasive crisis affects all communities – urban, suburban, and rural.
When Americans think of hunger, they may believe that it’s confined to distant third world countries, which in turn makes them less likely to contribute dollars to charities dedicated to this critical effort.
One company, Plexus Worldwide, saw firsthand the effect of hunger in local communities and was determined to do something about it.
The corporation, which markets nutritional products, created a charitable program solely dedicated to fighting hunger – Nourish One.
Nourish One focuses on Plexus’ Lean meal replacement shake, donating one meal for every serving of the product to Feeding America, a charity whose mission is ending food insecurity. Since its inception in 2018, Nourish One has resulted in 27,431,921 meals* being served to Americans in need. This effort has earned Plexus Worldwide the spot of Leadership Partner.
“It was the right thing to do,” says Alec Clark, President and Founder of Plexus Worldwide. “How can we not act when Plexus is dedicated to bringing healthy and affordable nutritional products to people? Food security is the foundation of that.”
It’s a testament to action-oriented values in motion within corporate America. With so many important charitable causes, companies may be overwhelmed and not know where to start. According to Clark, that’s the moment of opportunity.
“In a perfect world, we’d help everywhere, but unfortunately that’s not realistic as a company. You have to decide where your dollars go. For us, it meant choosing a cause that embodies who we are.”
And that ethical alignment is important to consumers. Years ago, altruistic shopping patterns were based on a company simply donating to a charity. Now, consumers want to know that a brand has chosen a charity of value to both the end-consumer and the company ethos. According to research, 72% of today’s consumer wants to shop a brand that aligns with their values, and consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies.
To Clark, that type of information is more reflective of a changing society than a reason for a company to be charitable.
“Knowing that people are using their buying power to purchase from ethical brands is heartening. But that shouldn’t be the motivation for a company. It’s wonderful that people feel positively about Plexus from our efforts. But we decided to do it because we wouldn’t feel good about ourselves if we didn’t.”
A recent article in Fortune highlights this new breed of corporate social responsibility. Dambisa Moyo, an economist, cited that corporations need to become “custodians not just of a single organization but of our economic well-being as a whole.”
Clark takes this one step further saying, “it’s our responsibility as corporations to work to help our fellow humans. It’s an error in perception to think our actions are isolated. We’re in this together.”
Clark’s words are echoed in a common human cognitive bias known as compassion fade. Compassion fade is an inclination for people to experience a decrease in empathy as the number of people in need increases.
“It’s easy to look at people in crisis as numbers,” says Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “When you get to know the people suffering from food insecurity, it’s not a numbers game. It’s an opportunity for each of us to feel true compassion and act on it.”
Clark agrees. “We encourage our employees and Brand Ambassadors to go out and volunteer at Feeding America Food banks. Until you see the crisis, it’s an abstraction.”
Plexus Worldwide has embraced the Nourish One initiative as a company. Jeff Hildebrandt, Senior Director of Product Management and Marketing, oversees Plexus Lean and feels that working on the initiative has improved his perspective.
“In the back of everyone’s head, we know that people in the U.S. go hungry. It’s intellectualized though. Working on this project has brought it home for me in a visceral and powerful way.”
We’re far off from ending food insecurity. That knowledge can feel like a burden and overwhelm us from acting. We want to feel that our efforts result in change and a growing problem can dishearten us from being active participants.
Clark understands the feeling but reminds us always to retain perspective. “It’s important to know the scope and complexity of the problem. But we need to view each person helped as a victory. We have to challenge ourselves to discover which American communities are most in need and bolster them. Individually those efforts may seem infinitesimal but collectively they’re exponential.”
*$1 helps provide at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America on behalf of local member food banks.
UPDATE [12/15/2022]: Plexus Worldwide’s Nourish One program continues to grow. As of December 2022, Nourish One has donated over 35 million meals globally in partnership with Feeding America and Mary’s Meals. To learn more about this initiative that provides critical food resources to people facing food insecurity and hunger, please visit https://shop.plexusworldwide.com/nourish-one.