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

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.



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 for delivery to the River Food Pantry (with free shipping!).


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.


  • Adult Literacy Plus Of Southwest Arizona

    501(c)(3) Charity, School or Library, Adult Education, GED
    Yuma, AZ
    Serving a minimum of 150 students a month ranging in ages from 16 to 70 years old. Reading levels range from third grade to first-year college levels. However, the most common age of students is between 19 and 35.
    Needs: Approximately 150 magazines per month
    Magazines Requested: Magazines showing places, people, and animals around the world. Any magazines about hobbies or sports. Magazines that open students’ eyes to the world around them.

  • Sunshine Acres Children’s Home School

    501(c)(3) Charity, School or Library
    Serve children ranging from 1st grade to college
    Mesa, AZ, USA
    Needs: 100 magazines
    Magazines Requested: any history, science, outdoors, economic, and any other educational magazines.

  • A New Leaf

    501(c)(3) Charity
    Mesa, Arizona, USA
    Serving girls and boys ages 12 to 17 with reading levels 6th grade and up
    Needs enough magazines for 10 girls and 16 boys
    Magazines Requested: Any sports magazines, any car magazines, any fashion magazines, and any entertainment magazines

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