FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Tracey Taylor may have landed the perfect job when she joined Food For All about 14 years ago.
After graduating college and serving two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, Taylor found herself in Washington at Food For All headquarters as manager of public relations, working with a two-office staff of 12 full-time employees. She never left, and now, as vice president of sales and marketing, Eastern region, her responsibilities have grown to include 35 supermarket accounts that represent 2,400 stores from Maine to Florida.
Taylor called her VISTA experience, teaching adult education and English as a second language in Pennsylvania, “transformational.”
“I am a huge reader, and I can't imagine going through the educational system and being overlooked and never learning to read,” she said.
Taylor has taken her voluntaristic spirit to the grassroots level at Food For All by working directly with many of the local nonprofit beneficiaries that supermarkets support. “It's wonderful for me to get to work directly with the nonprofits,” she commented. “It is really satisfying to see the end results of the hard work that has been done.”
In working with Publix Super Markets in Miami, for example, Taylor contacted the top beneficiaries such as Daily Bread and Farm Share and let the organizations know about Publix's fund-raising efforts on their behalf, and the time frame given to raise funds. These beneficiaries in turn will let their constituents know what is going on, and they'll take ownership of the program.
“Ultimately, our goal is to fund these amazing programs and to be able to talk about them to the retailer, and communicate their message in case the retailer hasn't had an opportunity to go out and see the work being done.”
What Taylor finds unique about Food For All is that it is simple and it works. “I've learned over the years that the food industry is an incredibly generous industry and wonderful to work with. There are just so many ways a company can give, and Food For All provides a great vehicle to do that.”
Last year, Publix's Miami division raised nearly $1 million through Food For All and distributed the funds among 42 charities in South Florida. At the end of the fund-raiser, Food For All helped bring all 42 charities together at a Publix event to present their stories and accept their checks. The event receive strong media coverage from NBC and CBS affiliates and the Miami Herald, among others. “It's an amazing feel-good event and really good communications exchange,” Taylor described.
She sees accounts using more media publicity to generate interest in their fund-raising than in the past. A CBS affiliate ran public service announcements for the duration of the Publix Miami fund drives. Giant Food of Landover, Md., partners with its NBC affiliate to let viewers know about its Good Neighbor campaign. Farm Fresh, Virginia Beach, Va., advertises its Food For Families program on local media.
The evolution of these programs can be seen in the graphics of the coupon boards produced. “Those are always evolving, and they evolve with the different focus retailers have each year and how they want to present their programs to their customers.” Several of Taylor's supermarkets list the charities their dollars support on the boards. While the boards have limited space to communicate the message, Taylor believes customers want to know where their donations are going. “I think customers are more inclined to give when they have more knowledge about these things,” she said.
Taylor also has experienced firsthand the capacity customers have for giving. “Just when you think they have nothing left to give, they dig deeper, because they know the need is there.”
This was the case in 2005 as Food For All was about to launch its holiday program and Katrina, one of the most deadly and costly hurricanes in U.S. history, wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast. Taylor expected to receive limited contributions after the natural disaster. To her surprise, the program grew. “It grew because I think it's a testament to people's generosity,” she said.
Food For All produces the most punch when everything comes together, she added. This includes support from top executives to store management and employees; the charities; and publicizing the charities' good works to customers.