Made to Give: How FEED Bags at Whole Foods Feed Rwanda’s Children

What’s all the fuss about embedded generosity, triple-bottom-line capitalism and social responsibility? Is it a new trend? Is it the latest manifestation of the human spirit?

Corporate giving is definitely not a new concept. Large companies and their leaders have been giving back for years, with billions of dollars donated to the arts, education, science and social issues. But today there’s something new in the air, there’s a movement of passionate and purpose-driven people who want to do more with their lives and their talents than just line their own pockets. A few years ago, consumers had little expectation that a company would give back. Most of us were certainly not buying products based on the social conscience or contributions of the companies selling us products. Something has changed considerably in the past few years where consumers can participate in making a difference through a wide range of products they purchase.

The emergence of passionate, creative entrepreneurs and CEOs of large corporations who are combining passion, purpose and principles into very successful businesses are making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate and setting a new standard for the way business is done. This is the emergence of the new American spirit with entrepreneurs and companies orienting their talents and designing their businesses for good. Want to learn to infuse a socially and environmentally responsible nature into your brand in a way that will feel genuine and well-received by your target audience? This article is the first in a series that looks at creative thinkers who were made to give. With their ingeniously simple concepts, they are working to play a significant part in solving complex problems.

FEED BAGS BY LAUREN BUSH: Channel your frustrations, put them up on the wall and look at them as a source of inspiration. It could lead you to the development of a business or the solution to a major issue. Use simplicity and brevity as filters for identifying and framing solutions to complex problems. World hunger is a far-away-and-doesn’t-affect-me issue. As a student spokesperson in 2005 for the UN’s World Food Program, Lauren Bush’s job was to share the story of starving children in third world countries back on campus. Lauren was frustrated by the lack of tangible action she could encourage students to take, other than signing petitions.

Small efforts can make a big difference. Strive to make your metrics for success easy to understand, such as Lauren’s ‘buy one bag and feed 3 children for a year’ messaging. As issues with plastic grocery bags were on the rise, Lauren used her talent as an emerging designer to create a reusable, stylish shopping bag as a fundraising tool. Combining brilliant simplicity and design, FEED Projects employs a very simple formula, buy a bag and you can positively impact the life of another person. FEED bags have provided more than 57 million meals through the sale of nearly 470,000 bags.

Create opportunities for other brands and companies to partner with you around your products and causes. Lauren attributes her success to collaborative partnerships and the passion of others to engage in her brand “I will always be so grateful to Whole Foods for their support in buying the first bag that made the biggest difference – sales from it helped feed the entire school population of RWANDA for an entire year!” FEED has more recently partnered with GAP, HSN and Bergdorff Goodman, who donated an entire window on 5th Avenue in New York City to support the introduction of the Kenya burlap bag.

Companies, teams and individuals possess a unique combination of talents that often go unexplored and are many times disconnected. Take the time to map both the passions and the talents of your team(s) and, as Sir Ken Robinson says, “You might find your element.” Inspired at an early age to care for the less fortunate by her mom, who used to take her to soup kitchens and started a charity for abused children, Lauren says, “I had the double whammy of examples of giving back to others with my family in politics and service.” Lauren is the Humanitarian Triple Threat: highly intelligent, empathetic humanitarian, designer and former model, who combined her talents and passion to design a business that engages women, raises awareness, and feeds starving children around the world.

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