We are single-mindingly serving the food banks and California's hungry.

Our ultimate goal is a California—an America—"where the hungry eat first."

We are continually evolving our programs to this end.

When it comes to feeding the hunger, we have done it all. We have provided direct services to clients, operated our regional food banking service, run a successful truck driving school and serviced our own fleet of vehicles. We have even staffed the many businesses who rented space from us—providing jobs to low- and no-income people who operated production lines to refurbish printers and package products, at the same time gaining important job and life skills.

That was a time when we were trying to be all things to all people. The message we emblazoned across our fleet of trucks was "Providing jobs, preventing hunger and training for the future."

Like many non-profit organizations, we have been hard-hit by the economic upheaval of the last few years. The impact on Foodlink has probably been greater than on other large feeding organizations, most of which offset their costs by charging recipient agencies for their services.

Foodlink has always been self-supporting. We have never charged our regional food banks for any of our many services.

This economic shift has caused us to take a serous look at our mission. We came to understand how far afield we had gone. We decided to regroup, let go of programs that were better-placed elsewhere and refocus our attention on aligning with our original mission: serving California's food banks.

This hasn't been easy. Letting go of our direct-service programs, where we get the immediate satisfaction of serving people directly, has been the most difficult thing we have ever done.

Our conversation about taglines took us in many directions.

When we first met to discuss creating a new tagline that better represents today's business, we talked long and hard about what it should be. Initially we settled on something straight-forward: helping food banks in California feed the hungry. That is, after all, the essence of what we do. It's just not very catchy or memorable.

Then someone reminded us that the thing Foodlink has always done best is place the needs of the hungry above everything else—

  • We have created and implemented programs especially designed to put them first. We have helped other food banks replicate our model.
  • We have weighed each business decision we have made against how much it helps us, and our network of food banks, provide more, faster and better hunger assistance services.
  • We have done the right thing every time, even when the decision has created more work for us, and we have needed to seek additional funding from other sources to pay for it.

This realization led us to a discussion of those cultures and peoples that have rituals around eating.

We observed that many of those rituals involve showing respect to those who share the table. For example, the best or finest foods are offered first to honored guests or senior members of the family. We realized that this is the kind of civility we have strived to imbue into all of our programs. It's how we have treated each other and each agency in our network. It's how we have greeted every hungry person, every student, every job seeker who has walked though our doors during the last 20+ years.

It's how we hope society, government and business will begin to approach America's hunger problem: before doing or funding anything else, make America a country "where the hungry eat first."