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Karen C. Erren: How addressing hunger in Westchester is beneficial to corporate engagement and responsibility

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Access to food is one of the most basic human rights. In an affluent county such as Westchester, many find it shocking to learn that thousands of children, seniors and families suffer from hunger. Some must often choose between paying rent, buying necessary medication or putting food on the table — a choice no one should have to make.

In these difficult times, the need in our community has never been greater, and support from local corporate partners remains essential.

From April through December 2020, Feeding Westchester’s network of nearly 300 community partners and programs were serving an average of 300,000 residents each month — more than twice as many than the year prior. We continue to serve about 225,000 each month — a 50% increase over the number of people we served pre-Covid. And, as the need has grown, so have the associated costs such as price of food and additional equipment for our community partners and emergency distribution sites.

Now more than ever, businesses have a unique opportunity to tackle hunger in their communities — you can nourish your neighbors while also supporting your sales objectives.

Corporate social responsibility matters. When businesses engage with good causes, they send a message that they care about social issues. A recent study by Cone Communications found that 87 percent of respondents said that they would purchase a product because a company supported an issue that’s important to them.

Charitable food systems are vital in providing food access for vulnerable people in nearly every community. Organizations such as Feeding Westchester are also critical to addressing community health disparities through both food and related social services. We give hope — and you can too.

All businesses can make a difference. Working directly with a nonprofit helps guide better practices around awareness and advocacy, monetary donations, employee giving, volunteering and other corporate social responsibility opportunities.

Corporate matching gift programs
Giving back to the community is at the heart of corporate giving. It benefits the company by leading to higher employee satisfaction, increased retention and can help enhance a company’s brand. As a result of corporate social responsibility, more employees have a good experience in their roles and are proud to be part of a company that contributes to the broader social good.

Corporate matching gift programs are crucial to nonprofit efforts because they essentially double an employee’s initial donation. Another effective way to further demonstrate your company’s commitment to supporting its employees’ efforts and maximizing their impact is by offering incentives such as paid time off to volunteer, “Dollar for Doers” volunteer service grants, and in-kind giving.

Cause marketing
When a company and a charity team up to tackle a social problem such as hunger relief, it creates opportunities for the business to gain exposure, while raising awareness and funds for neighbors in need.

Cause-marketing campaigns provide an opportunity to give back through product transactions, point-of-sale, social media, fundraisers, and/or other promotional efforts. Companies can collect funds from customers and staff, providing crucial support while also promoting your business and brand.

Consumers tend to be more loyal to businesses whose values align with their own. Cause marketing is an effective tool to increase company sales and consumer sentiment by demonstrating your corporate values in a way that is meaningful, authentic, and engaging. A positive feeling toward a business can have a substantial impact on a buyer when they make future purchases or are choosing between competing brands.

Engaging employees
When helping those in need is woven into the DNA of a brand, the possibilities are endless. Employees make the best advocates and are instrumental to the success of an employer’s commitment to a cause. They can leverage the power of their voice and brand recognition to amplify a mission.

Inspire your employees — don’t force them — to get involved. Establishing an easy to use social sharing program can help. Give them the tools and resources they need by creating content such as infographics, webinars and blog posts. Your employees can be excited to keep the conversation going as educators and ambassadors from your brand.

Nourish your neighbors
At Feeding Westchester, grants and other forms of financial support are what allow us to transform lives by enriching our programs and services. We purchase nutritious food at whole prices and, for every $1 donated, are able to provide three meals for children, seniors and families who are struggling.

Whether you’re looking to make a social impact or enrich the lives of your employees, your support is vital. No one should go to bed hungry. Together we can reimagine and reshape the future of our community. Together we are Feeding Westchester. To join us, visit feedingwestchester.org.

Karen C. Erren is president and CEO of Feeding Westchester, Westchester County’s leading nonprofit hunger-relief organization. For the latest news and updates, follow @FeedingWestchester on Facebook and Instagram and @FeedWestchester on Twitter.

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