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Poverty is big, but you are bigger – empty this Whole Foods newsstand for literacy

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Whole Foods Magazine Drive

Whole Foods Magazine Harvest

by John Mennell

We’ve just secured our first newsstand magazine drive at a Whole Foods scheduled for Earth Month from store open to close on Saturday April 12th and Sunday April 13th in Madison, WI. Every wave begins with a ripple, every forest a seed – our goal is to mobilize shoppers to clear every magazine copy for delivery to readers via literacy programs – and then to replicate the Magazine Harvest coast-to-coast.

I’ve been involved with supermarket food drives for 25+ years, collecting vast quantities of food –  up to 2,000 pounds in a day for food banks and pantries. So, we are extending lessons learned to share favorite magazines and feed people hungry to read. We also plan to build newsstands inside food pantries for direct magazine distribution to children, teens, and adults receiving groceries, job training, nutrition education, and financial literacy – all this on our journey to marry the magazine supply chain to the food bank supply chain that feeds a vast network of tens of thousands of community agencies serving tens of millions of READy hands and homes.

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The Amazon River runs through the heart of Wisconsin

We are not going to stop there – we are working with Bendyworks and other technologists to build a global crowdfunded humanitarian marketplace, where literacy programs post magazine wishlists and consumers and businesses fund fulfillment of favorite titles. We will extend that beyond the newsstand to online shopping and distribution, much like these gift boxes filled with food, personal essentials, and cleaning products that I purchased from Amazon and Walgreens.com for delivery to the River Food Pantry (with free shipping!).

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Then, we need to overcome “the last mile” hurdle to complete the literacy/human capital pipeline into millions of hands and homes. Reading is Fundamental says that two-thirds of children in poverty live in homes with no books. With titles for every reading level and interest, magazines are especially powerful for literacy. Our mantra is to disrupt poverty. Our mission is to get magazines into hands and homes to promote reading.

Ranger RickImagine the great success of delivering a Babybug or Ranger Rick or Hello magazine to a mom in a domestic violence shelter, only to realize that she is unable to read it to her child. Imagine delivery of English-language magazines to many places overseas where English is not native. There are countless benefits to holding a printed magazine in your hands while exploring the pages yourself or with a child. Certainly, having the magazines themselves is invaluable for building a first bridge across the chasm, but we need to do more. For example – digital and audio translation of magazine articles for use along with the printed media.

IMG_5252Among the items I purchased online is a lavender bar of earth- and human-friendly soap from Seventh Generation. Just before hitting the add to cart button, I briefly closed my eyes and took a deep breath to imagine a neighbor in need inhaling the fresh, calming lavender scent. How invigorating and exhilarating that purchase was.

This week, we were so pleased to receive word from the Method eco-friendly cleaning products company that they 12ozhw_gel_blue-poppywill be sending us recycled magazines for literacy in time for our Earth Month campaign.

I smiled wider than the grin on this box.

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  • Wave City Care: Shine Program

    Wave City Care - ColorandBlack - LOGO

    501(c)(3) charity
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Serving: Girls in from grades 5th through 12th
    Needs: 50 magazines per month, year round
    Magazines Requested: Girls teen, Career, National Geographic, Fashion, Home, Family, Women, Seventeen, Redbook, Teen Vogue, Self, Good Housekeeping, Home Journal, Ellle, Homes & Garden

  • Rocking the Boat

    rockingtheboat

    501(c)(3) charity
    Bronx, NY
    Serving roughly 75 boys and girls (high school)
    Magazines Requested: Wooden Boat magazine, Fine Woodworking, Sail, National Geographic

  • Maryland Correctional Institution–Jessup (MCIJ)

    School or Library
    Jessup, Maryland
    Serving male adults 18-60 years of age. From pre-literacy to varying reading levels.
    Needs magazines for 30 students monthly
    Magazines Requested: Students enjoy nonfiction magazines with lots of pictures and short articles–this would include magazines about animals, geography, science, food, clothing, anything relevant to today’s world. National Geographic for Kids would be wonderful.

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