Food for Good
This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
The League of Intrapreneurs: Building Better Business from the Inside Out competition.
Food for Good is a social business incubator within PepsiCo that is focused on developing new models to sustainably improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities. Our flagship initiative provides nutritious meals and physical activities to kids at risk of hunger during the summer.
Tell us about yourself/your team.
"Food for Good" is a team of passionate, hopelessly optimistic, fiercely stubborn "doers" - who believe that you can do good and do well at the same time, that business can be a force for social good, and that we can accomplish more when we work together - across silos, sectors, and schools of thought - than we can alone.
For the last four years, I have led a small team with big ideas working within one of the world's largest food & beverage companies. We've created a "social business incubator" -- called Food for Good -- that pilots new business models that can improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities in the United States.
I've worked across non-profits, government, and business -- and am passionate about finding creative ways to drive social change!
What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?
A passionate commitment to social justice.
A deep conviction that the world can be better - and that I can be part of the solution.
Dogged determination and an unwillingness to take "no" for an answer.
A strong internal and external network, and a keen sense of how to frame our business case for different stakeholders.
A gift for storytelling and inspiring and motivating people.
Shameless self-promotion in service of building and maintaining internal support.
Resilience and a high tolerance for ambiguity.
An understanding of how the game is played - for resources, mindshare, etc. - and a willingness to play it.
An ability to be resourceful and scrappy.
"Selective hearing" to drown out the voices of naysayers.
About Your Organization
United States, NY, Purchase, Westchester County
Primary country where this project is creating social impact
United States, TX, Dallas, Dallas County
Additional countries or regions
Austin, Houston, Chicago
Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
The Need: What social or environmental problem are you trying to solve?
Food for Good’s mission is to sustainably improve access to healthy food in underserved communities. We've started our efforts in the area of childhood nutrition. Nationwide, almost 20 million children rely on subsidized meals at school to meet a significant portion of their daily nutritional needs. However, many of these children struggle during the summer to get the food and nutrition they need. The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides funding to support summer meals, but less than 10% of eligible kids access these meals. Our conversations with local community members revealed that transportation and access issues prevented many kids from reaching these traditional summer food service sites, which are generally located at churches, schools, parks, or other community sites.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
As one of the world's largest food & beverage companies, we have best-in-class logistics and supply chain systems that can get our food & beverage products to every corner of the country. Leveraging this expertise, we've created a "mobile" meal program that can bring healthy food and physical activities directly to children in apartment complexes and other community sites during the summer. By doing so, Food for Good is able to address many of the transportation and access issues that prevent kids from reaching traditional summer food service sites. We've partnered together with local community organizations and state and federal government agencies to create the largest summer mobile meal program for kids in the country, serving over 1 million meals to underserved kids across Dallas, Chicago, Austin, and Houston in the last four years. In addition, we've been able to leverage our meal platform to provide meaningful physical activities and games for our kids.
The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?
Most companies, including ours, have traditionally focused their social efforts through grant-making corporate foundations. In contrast, Food for Good is a social business incubator that develops and scales nutrition initiatives. We harness the people, resources, and scale of business to engage directly in addressing social issues. We believe it’s acceptable - and desirable – to generate revenue; it is the best path to sustainability and greater impact!
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities.
During the school year, millions of children are able to receive healthy meals at school. This system works efficiently because of the existing transportation infrastructure (e.g., school buses) that bring kids to schools. During the summer, this system breaks down. Kids scatter, and many are told by their parents to stay inside while their parents are at work. The unfortunate reality of this situation – combined with a summer meal program that has historically been administered through scattered non-profit sites (e.g., churches, schools, YMCAs, and clubs) – is that millions of kids across the country are not able to access the healthy meals.
Our model hinges on a very simple insight: if kids can’t get to food, why can’t we bring food to kids? We partnered with local community organizations that were already involved in the summer food service program and offered them the ability to significantly extend their reach and impact by serving kids that weren’t able to access their traditional sites. We designed a “healthy meal” twist on the classic ice cream truck, leveraging our expertise in food and nutrition, as well as supply chain and logistics, to develop a mobile meal van that goes directly to locations where kids are – apartment buildings, low-income housing complexes, and community playgrounds. Over time, we have added “coaches” to engage with the kids, provided physical activity programming, and have consistently improved the quality of meals. And we partner with local police departments to ensure that our program sites are safe places for kids to play and eat.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
There is a complex constellation of players in child nutrition. The government provides critical financial resources. Non-profit organizations administer the program at the local level. And for-profit (and some non-profit) food service organizations produce and deliver meals.
We have strived to break down silos by engaging with players at every level, looking for creative ways to improve efficiency, reach more kids (e.g., by developing a new mobile model that brings foods where kids are), supplement meals with physical activities, and improve the quality of meals. While this approach has won us accolades from many who welcome a fresh approach, we still struggle to overcome the skepticism of some traditional players who feel we are encroaching on their territory!
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
After getting the green light from our CEO to move forward with the initiative, our team spent months sitting with community members in what we called "listening" sessions. We had no agenda -- only one question for discussion: What are the biggest challenges facing your community, and how can we help? We were sitting in one of these sessions when someone brought up the challenge of child hunger, particularly during the summer. When we probed on why this was such a challenge, the neighbor explained that it wasn't about funding but about transportation, access, and distribution. The light bulb went off immediately! PepsiCo has one of the most extensive distribution networks in the world. If we know how to get our products to every corner of the country, why couldn't we use that same expertise to get healthy meals to kids in need? Six weeks after that spark, we launched our first two mobile meal vans and started serving healthy snacks and breakfasts to kids in inner city Dallas.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
Over the last four years, we have served over 1 million healthy meals to underserved kids in Dallas, Chicago, Austin, and Houston. We've helped provide fun physical activities to thousands of kids. And we've created hundreds of summer jobs and transitioned a number of these into full-time, career-track positions within PepsiCo.
Along the way, we’ve talked with parents who are struggling to get by and have told us how much it means to know their kids are getting nutritious meals and fun, supervised activities while they’re away. We’ve met kids for whom our program was the first time they had adult male role models, had someone believe in them, or saw tangibly that the world hadn’t forgotten about them. We’ve had employees tell us about how meaningful it has been to see their “day job” skills empower them to give back. And we’ve talked with countless individuals across all fields who have been inspired by seeing an example of social entrepreneurship at work.
What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?
In the next phase of our Food for Good journey, our goal is to extend and deepen our impact in the community while building a more robust platform for long-term sustainability. Over the next three years, we plan to provide ten million nutritious meals to kids and community members through our summer meal program, year-round kids nutrition programs, and retail models that we are piloting with local bodegas and convenience stores. In addition, we are improving our summer programming by creating more structured physical activities, integrating nutrition education, and improving training for our summer coaches. Our next chapter will be critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of our efforts and will help us define a deeper, broader impact in the communities that we serve.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Although we have reached operational breakeven with our summer meal model, seasonality continues to be our greatest challenge. Our current model operates only three months each year, which results in substantial, repeated start-up and shut-down costs. Seasonality makes it difficult to retain high-quality staff, deliver continuous improvements, and maintain organizational momentum. As we enter Phase 2 of our Food for Good journey, our focus is on developing complementary business models in the nutrition space that would extend our operations year-round, allow us to invest in infrastructure to build more scale, and ultimately expand and improve the scope of our efforts.
What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?
Food for Good is a powerful proof point of our corporate vision of Performance with Purpose. We empower employees to use their skills to make a difference, improving engagement and decreasing turnover. We are an R&D incubator for new technologies, such as low-cost refrigeration, and a learning lab for breakthrough innovation. We’ve built trust and equity with consumers who hear about and interact directly with our program. And we serve as ambassadors with community and government leaders who are excited to see our commitment to partnership.
How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?
Internal support, at every level, has been critical to our success. We have a strong base of senior executive support that helps us secure and maintain funding for the initiative. This allows us to staff a small core team to manage the overall initiative. We have a cross-functional steering committee of mid-level executives that provide strategic guidance and serve as liaisons to subject matter experts throughout the organization. We partner with our internal employee affinity groups to recruit volunteers for “route rides,” where employees spend a day engaging with kids, serving meals, and building relationships in the community.
Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.
Our long-term plan is to fund our own growth and expansion through the revenues generated by our social business operations. For example, for our flagship summer meal program, we receive payment for each meal that we deliver. Leveraging these resources, we reached operational break-even, where we are able to cover the direct costs of operating our summer program, in year 3. By expanding into related year-round business models and increasing our scale, we expect to be able to cover our full costs (including “headquarters” staff) in the next 3 years. In the meantime, we receive annual funding and headcount from our business units through our annual operating plan budgeting process.
Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.
Our most critical external partnerships are with non-profit organizations that administer the summer meal program. These community groups have deep existing relationships in the neighborhoods that we serve and help identify locations where there are kids in need, find and mobilize neighborhood advocates to get the word out, and work with AmeriCorps to provide physical activities to the kids. These efforts perfectly complement the mobile meal delivery that we provide.
What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?
Food for Good is closely aligned with our corporate vision of Performance with Purpose. We have received critical internal support at every level, from front-line volunteers to mid-level strategic advisors and senior executive support that include our CEO and head of R&D. Internal debate has been centered on how close (or far) our business models should be from our core competencies and brands and how quickly we are able to achieve scale and financial sustainability.