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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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  • Henderson Middle School

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    School or Library
    Students Grades 6-8
    Richmond, VA USA
    Needs: 75 Magazines
    Magazines Requested Oprah, Ebony, Cobblestone, Highlights, Cricket, Calliope, OWL, Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic for Kids, Kids Discover, ASK, Ranger Rick, Zoobooks, Dig, Boys Life, Teen Magazines and Music Related Titles.

  • Arizona Housing Incorporated

    501 (c)(3) Charity Housing for Homeless
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
    Needs: 60 Magazines
    Magazines Requested: any adventure/nature magazines, any sports magazines, any art magazines, and any science magazines

  • Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center, Inc

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    501(c)(3) Charity
    Wyandanch, NY

    Serving the following number of individuals on a monthly basis:
    550 children ages 0-17
    630 adults ages 18-59
    35 seniors ages 60+

    Magazines Requested: Magazines for a wide age range of readers on topics such as cooking, women’s health, automobiles, teen trends, kids magazines etc.

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