Convention-planning season is upon us, and there's plenty in this issue of SN to help figure out what to do at the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention in Chicago May 7 to 10. On Page 16 is a complete schedule of workshop activities and on Page 20 is an interview with FMI President Tim Hammonds, who talks about current industry issues. Throughout the issue are show floor maps for specific categories that will help in convention planning.
But even as all the planning goes on, we might do well to pause for a minute to think about something else with fundamental meaning, namely the simple vision of one industry-related anti-hunger organization: "Hunger is 100% curable."
Working on a "cure" has been the motivating perspective behind the Food Industry Crusade Against Hunger since it was formed by food-industry executives 10 years ago. To this day, FICAH is guided by a board of 40 active or recently retired industry professionals.
How can hunger and malnutrition be cured? It's no doubt an impossible dream to totally eradicate hunger, but there also can be no doubt that if people who lack the capacity to obtain nourishment are shown the means to do so, a giant leap toward curing hunger will be taken.
And the self-help programs of FICAH are intended to do just that. Here are a few examples: · FICAH has operated programs in four countries -- Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras and Mali -- that provide women small loans, which they use to capitalize a business, such as an in-home bakery or jewelry-making enterprise. Resulting goods are sold by the women in their community or to tourists. More than 95% of program participants have repayed the seed loans. · Families in communities in several countries -- including Bolivia, India and Tanzania -- have been given a "living loan" of a cow, goat or another farm animal. The animals are bred and their offspring form the basis for the program's continuation.
· In Ethiopia, FICAH funds a program that shows farmers how to properly prepare crop beds using animal labor. That not only improves crop yields, it allows children who had been performing the task to go to school.
· Domestically, FICAH has approved a new long-term project called the Rural Farming Program. The program aims to help small-plot farmers maximize production, and to link them to the distribution system. About 30% of FICAH's funding is devoted to domestic programs such as this. How does FICAH obtain funding to sponsor such obviously worthwhile projects, and how can FICAH respond to the ever-increasing number of requests to fund hunger-alleviation activities?
In 1994, more than 6,500 retailers participated in FICAH's Consumer Sharing Program. Retailers participate by putting coin canisters or bar-coded debit coupons at the point of purchase. Last year's CSP produced more than $1 million, or about 65% of FICAH's annual revenue. And that's no small sum, given that CSP runs only in November and December. CSP isn't the sole source of FICAH's funds, nor is it the only way to spur participation. Other funding sources include corporate grants from wholesalers and manufacturers, together with those from a few retailers and individuals. As for brokers, in many areas they participate by helping stores implement CSP. In short, this means FICAH is totally supported by the food industry and its customers. As FICAH moves through its anniversary year, it's looking to the industry for continued support in the form of retailers willing to participate in CSP, as well as to any industry sector willing to give monetary or in-kind support. If there's a more appropriate way to mark convention time, or to help commemorate FICAH's anniversary, than by participating in this cause, it doesn't come right to mind. FICAH maintains donated offices in FMI's building in Washington and can be reached by calling (202) 429-4555, or by fax at (202) 429-8476.