Second Harvest Heartland: The Value of Simple Partner Charity

Second Harvest Heartland

Nobody wants to live without shelter. But we can.

Nobody wants to live without transportation. But we can.

Nobody wants to live without companionship. But we can.

Nobody wants to live without food. And sadly, we can’t.

The role of food in our lives is so special, so unique, and so essential that I’ve always been hyper aware of what its presence (or absence) does to us.

Having easy access to food at a grocery store or farmers market – without having to grow or raise it ourselves – is one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. But since the vast majority of us don’t grow our own food, raise our own chickens or cattle, and are completely dependent on using money for the nourishment to survive and thrive, what happens when the money dries up?

Unfortunately, many people in impoverished countries simply go without and try to hold on by consuming even the least appealing options available.

But folks in rich countries have their ability to get food compromised too and are at the mercy of others’ generosity.

This is why I have a special place in my heart for organizations that work to end hunger for people who can’t get their own food. This (and many other reasons) is why my first charitable dollars go to food-related charities.

Although I’ve never had to rely on a food bank and probably never will, there may come a time when it’s necessary. Therefore, I want to support non-profits who take care of the current needs of the less fortunate and the future needs of an unpredictable population.

Enter Second Harvest Heartland

There are few things I support with more enthusiasm and pride than Second Harvest Heartland.

When they say they support hunger relief, they’re talking about going well beyond the traditional food bank.

If you read their About Page, you’ll see the huge impact they’re making primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but also nationally.

My heart sings when I read their words:

Our goal is not only to help our hungry neighbors today, but to provide the means for everyone to be fed tomorrow.

Second Harvest Heartland goes on to say that, “In 2011 alone, we collected, warehoused and distributed more than 70 million pounds of food – but we’re also constantly pioneering ways to reduce waste and better use the abundant resources available in this land of plenty.”

I can’t tell you how emphatically I nod my head when I read this. And they eloquently answer a question like:

Providing a bag of groceries to a person in need today is obviously important. But how do we make it so that person isn’t in need tomorrow?

Or a question like:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that providing our hungry neighbors information about available resources is just as important as the food source itself. What good is a food source if no one knows about it?

I’m not going to copy and paste everything from their website here. You’re perfectly capable of clicking a link (please do) and reading for yourself.

But I would like you to watch this short video which summarizes the Second Harvest Heartland mission, impact, and challenges. At least, as much as any short video can summarize a struggle so large and meaningful.

A primary reason I chose Second Harvest Heartland as the Value of Simple partner charity over other many worthy causes is because this is as uncontroversial as it gets.

By donating 5% of all pretax income that Value of Simple generates to help people eat, I’m not asking you to support my politics, religious views, philosophy, or anything else we may disagree on.

I’m being transparent in my commitment to help end hunger – first regionally, but ultimately worldwide – and respect that we think differently about many other things.

I’ve volunteered in their food banks. I’ve written emails to my state legislators on their behalf. I’ve read on Charity Navigator about their financial stewardship – 94% of every dollar raised goes directly to program expenses (!) – their organizational transparency, and understand why they get the highest rating possible.

And I know you have your own causes that you support. I know it’s mentally and financially tough to add yet another cause to your list with all the extremely worthy alternatives. If only we all had the financial resources of Bill Gates and could support hundreds of worthy causes, right?

But even if you don’t live in the Upper Midwest, consider exploring more of what Second Harvest Heartland is doing. And if you really want to make my day, think about donating even a small amount.

My Relationship with Food and Hunger

I’ll admit I have a somewhat strange relationship with food and hunger. All the food I’ve ever needed has been provided to me…and in abundance. I’m extremely grateful and don’t take this amazing gift for granted.

But I want to understand what it’s like to not know when your next meal is coming and from where. I want to understand the deep physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain that people without food go through.

This is where my inner-Stoic and drive for personal experimentation collide.

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve written about the war on food and the challenges of 2.7 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day.

It’s not a coincidence that many of my personal experiments have involved intentionally fasting for 48 hours, 72 hours, or an attempt at 120 hours.

I’m lucky. I get to choose when I don’t eat. And if I want to change my mind, a fully stocked fridge and loaded kitchen cabinets are steps away.

Millions and millions of people aren’t this lucky.

This is why I’m proud Second Harvest Heartland exists and is the official partner charity of Value of Simple.

If you appreciate this and support the mission of Second Harvest Heartland, I want you to feel good every time you send a small amount of your hard earned money this way. Whether that’s indirectly through an affiliate link or directly through a product or service I create, thank you.

Second Harvest Heartland thanks you too after I pass along 5% of it to them.

Do you have a charity fighting the war against hunger I should know about? Or do you have thoughts about what you’ve just read here? Please leave a comment and let us know.

29 Responses to Second Harvest Heartland: The Value of Simple Partner Charity

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    Great post, Joel. My own charity of choice is Kiva, and has been ever since I heard of the concept of micro-finance. I like the sound of Second Harvest. It’s important not just to provide relief, but to aid people in sustainable prosperity.

    • Kiva is a great one Shanna. The problem (an awesome one to have) is there’s so many great organizations doing all these wonderful things throughout the world. I love supporting worldwide groups too!

  2. Denise says:

    Great cause, Joel. I especially appreciate how they address something deeper than just donating food.

    Like you, for the most part, I’ve never had to worry much about getting more than what I need. But, it’s been harder since I became a single mom. I get a lot of support from family, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have that, and I wonder how some other single parents manage without a support system of some kind.

    It’s important to be aware of these issues, and getting to the root of why it happens and how to prevent it. Glad you’re supporting such an important cause!

    • Thanks Denise. Support can come from so many places and take so many different forms. I’m glad you have the support you need primarily from family, but it’s always good to know there are people busting their butts every day to make sure you and I can fall back on unanticipated forms of support if we need to.

  3. Erin says:

    Nice, Joel, it’s so cool that you’ve connected Value of Simple with such a great cause. I appreciate you letting us know a bit about Second Harvest Heartland and why you chose to work with them.

    Contributing to an organization like this is something I’m only starting to explore more. I recently signed up to be a literacy volunteer. It’s not filling as basic a need as eating, of course, but it’s a cause I feel pretty strongly about. I think what’s important is to find an organization doing work you love and then help out in whatever way feels right to you :-)

    • Hey Erin,

      I wouldn’t downplay the importance of supporting any worthy cause, especially something as crucial as literacy. But the nice thing about this community is that we don’t compete against each other for who has the best thing going or who is partnering with the biggest or “most important” people/groups. Comparisons – or even an attempt at one – between charitable work often isn’t a fruitful or fair one…so I don’t even bother.

      I’m receptive to supporting the organizations and missions of people I respect and trust. And today, I’m asking for people to help me support one I’m passionate about. I’m just glad a cause as great as Second Harvest Heartland exists where I live.

  4. Ethan says:

    Joel, I think it’s wonderful that you are incorporating charity into your business model so early on. You’re really making me rethink how I want to handle that as well. The more profitable you are, the more difference you can make for this charity. Great job!

    • You got it Ethan. Based on my latest Pulse Check, Second Harvest Heartland won’t be swimming in major donations soon. But both they and I are taking the long road approach to solving problems we feel best equipped to tackle and helping folks in ways that can be leveraged beyond what an individual person or organization can do. Hopefully this time next year, they’ll be getting a nice sized check from me. But that’s on me to come through for them. And I will…because now I have another major commitment that will grow more important as the value I’m generating here increases.

  5. Lindsi says:

    Joel and everyone – just a quick note from all of us at Second Harvest Heartland to say thanks for this thoughtful, inspiring post! We so appreciate the time you have taken to really dig in to all the intricacies of the hunger relief system and our work in the community. Supporters like you are crucial to our work and we’re so thankful to call you a partner. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at any time with questions, ideas or general comments. Thanks for making us your official charity partner. – Lindsi Gish, Communications Director,

    • Hi Lindsi,

      Thanks for dropping by to represent Second Harvest Heartland! I really hope some folks contact you about what you’re doing and how they can help. Thanks for extending the offer.

      And I know you didn’t ask for it, but it’s great to have an amazing organization at my back to help me find the motivation to create all the value I know I can provide. So sit tight for now and look forward to this community helping you grow as we grow ourselves!

  6. Bobbi Emel says:

    Sounds like a great organization, Joel. My charity of choice is Women for Women International. I think everyone should have at least one charity they help either through donations or volunteering.

    • Wow Bobbi. I just read the mission statement of Women for Women International. That’s some really important work they are carrying out! I’m glad you’ve found your charity of choice to support and help thrive as well.

  7. Sarah says:

    Joel – I think this is a great choice. I’m glad you selected a charity that you feel strongly about and have personal experience working with. I love their focus on long-term sustainability, and 94% to programs is really impressive.

  8. Priska says:

    Joel, Thank you for bringing the basic need for food into everyones awareness. Thirty years ago I found myself a single mum struggling to provide the basic needs of food and shelter. That shame instilled a fear in me that I carried for twenty years, too scared to take risks through the fear of poverty. I may have ‘boomed on’ but will always carry a special place in my heart to support those still struggling.

    • Hi Priska,

      It sounds like you’ve come a long, long way. I’ve read a number of stories that sound similar to yours where people are ashamed to seek help from a food bank or a temporary housing facility. Certain parts of society can create a stigma around taking from the outstretched hand. But I know Second Harvest Heartland works to remove the social stigma and mitigate the feelings of inferiority for people who use their services. Restoring self-esteem from not being able to provide for your family is almost as important as a meal. They get that and have programs for people beyond meeting the most basic of needs (eating of course).

      Thanks for sharing this brief story with us. May we never personally need the services of an organization like Second Harvest Heartland, but enjoy the comfort of knowing they exist just in case.

  9. Thanks, Joel, for introducing me to an organization I was unaware of. It looks like they have a fabulous mission and I intend to support them. Great post!

  10. Yes, yes, yes! Giving back to our world is a requirement for me, thankful of all my blessings. I work for a nonprofit helping children who are dyslexic and other struggling readers. I give monthly to this organization plus many other nonprofits who are feeding my community, giving arts to underpriviledged children, our community foundation etc. I give to World Vision by sponsoring a child to save her from being sold for the sex slave world. Bravo for thinking, sharing and giving to the world.

    • Thanks for the kudos Jane. But don’t start handing me any awards just yet. Speaking of awards…

      I was going to wait a bit to hand out the “Comment Enthusiasm” award for September, but I’m giving it to you now even though the month isn’t over. That was a dynamic comment!

  11. Kaia says:

    Hi Joel,

    I wanted to personally thank you for supporting our mission to end hunger. I’m so grateful to community members like you who advocate for those living in hunger, and who can express the need so eloquently.

    Thank you, and please feel free to reach out with any questions or thoughts!–Kaia Arthur, Volunteer Program Developer

    • Hi Kaia,

      I didn’t think I’d catch the attention of two people from Second Harvest Heartland. Thanks to you and Lindsi for reaching out and encouraging others to engage with the great folks over there!

  12. Dave says:

    Hi Joel, What a great organization!

    Reading this I was struck by the smartness of their approach with their focus on reducing waste and directing people to available resources, as well as providing food.

    I love your idea of adopting a charity as part of your business.

    • Hi Dave,

      I had a couple of people plant the seed for doing this. Actually, Target, headquartered in the Twin Cities, has always done this. Even before I saw other entrepreneurs doing something similar, they influenced me. Regardless of the origins of the idea, I’m happy the seed was planted long enough ago that I can see it grow now.

  13. Michelle says:

    Kudos to you for integrating charity into your business model! Have you heard of Erin Giles? She does something similar and is running End Sex Trafficking day (which I believe is happening later this month). I also liked reading about your reasons behind supporting this specific charity, and appreciate that you chose something so neutral (for lack of a better word?) – I always feel awkward when I go to buy something and then find out that a portion of the proceeds go to support a charity or nonprofit that I disagree with and don’t want to support. I think you’re right, though, that food is something we can all agree on.

    Aside from all of that, Second Harvest sounds like a GREAT charity – the 94% rate is astoundingly high, and I was also impressed by feeding a family of four on $25/week – that’s some smart spending.

    • Hey Michelle,

      I haven’t heard of Erin Giles, but I just checked her out online for a few minutes. That’s a cool fusion she has going on! And I’m glad you appreciate my reasons to keep my official partner charity so neutral (a great word to describe my approach). That was really important to me and I felt would be really important to anyone who supports me. Your thoughtful words validate the considerable effort I put into picking and clarifying why Second Harvest Heartland is Value of Simple’s official charity.

  14. Amit Amin says:

    Fantastic Joel! Lead by example.

    I think hunger is one of those impossible problems… that most people (myself included) have just stopped thinking about, because it seems so impossible.

    But we forget that we don’t have to solve world hunger. We just need to feed one person to make a difference.

    You may be interested in (their website is down at the time of this comment). I use their ranking to define my donations.

    • Give Well, eh? Never heard of them but I’ll check them out. I normally just use Charity Navigator and GuideStar for an objective view on a non-profit. Perhaps I’ll have a new tool for future charity analysis.

      Thanks for the comment Amit.

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