retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Not to lean too much on Fast Company for inspiration, but let's give credit where credit is due - the magazine consistently offers fascinating and innovative editorial that challenges conventional thinking.

The current issue has a piece about an organization called FeelGood that was founded in 2004 at the University of Texas at Austin, where a couple of college students decided to start cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and giving them to people who made donations that would be used to address local hunger issues. Within two years, the effort was so successful that the students turned their campus initiative into a nonprofit, "allowing students at universities across the country to open FeelGood grilled cheese delis. All the cash that the students raise goes to two organizations--The Hunger Project and CHOICE Humanitarian--that focus on ending hunger through sustainable practices."

According to the story, "Students don’t just run FeelGood delis; they also learn about both hunger and entrepreneurship. FeelGood offers three curricula: a changemaker track that teaches leadership, a track that offers lessons on how to run a social enterprise, and a hunger track that 'lets students take a deep dimensional look at the issue of hunger'."

And, Fast Company goes on: "There are currently 23 chapters of FeelGood at universities across the U.S. Last year, they raised a total of $58,000. The goal for this coming school year: $128,000. It’s ambitious, but we should never underestimate the fundraising power of a well-made grilled cheese."

Now, some will say that $128,000 isn't all that much when it comes to combatting a national hunger problem. These are baby steps, to be sure. But only an impossible cynic would scoff, in my view. I am cheered by the image of college students around the country creating a private enterprise designed to serve the public good, and learning about leadership and business in the process. And it seems to me that there is a lesson here for business in how to engender trust and good feelings among consumers ... by sometimes thinking beyond the bottom line.

Here's an idea.

What if, on one Saturday all across the country, the supermarket industry were to team with FeelGood and sell grilled cheese sandwiches to customers, with all of the profits going to local hunger programs. It would be high profile, might raise a lot of money and awareness, could create connections with these students that might lead to sustainable relationships, and would be just plain fun.

It would be comfort food to comfort and help the hungry.

Just an idea...
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