Through the end of next year, Newman’s Own Foundation has committed $10 million of Newman’s Own food profits to fund programs that educate under-served people about nutrition and boost fresh food access. Food insecurity—being without reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food—is widespread in the U.S. afflicting 49.1 million Americans in 2013. And this area has attracted increasing attention from funders, who are thinking not just about addressing hunger, but also about the negative health effects when people living in "food deserts" and only have access to fast food or junk food.
- Just SNAP for Fresh Produce: Kresge Keeps Up Its Fight Against Food Deserts
- Delicious Oases: How the California Endowment is Tackling Food Deserts
What makes the Newman’s Own Foundation unique in this space is that its money comes from a food company.
Actor Paul Newman (1925-2008) founded that company as a lark, making his own salad dressing, pouring it into wine bottles, slapping on labels, and giving the dressing to friends and neighbors. When he got appreciative feedback and suggestions that he turn his recipes into a business, he did so, beginning Newman’s Own in 1982. When the business turned a profit, he said, “Let’s give it all away to those who need it.”
Of course, this was all before "social enterprise" became a hot idea.
Today, Newman’s Own makes close to a 100 nutritious, top-quality food products across nine categories. Since 1982, continuing after Newman’s death, the foundation has given away $430 million through more than 21,000 grants in all U.S. states and 14 countries focused on four major charitable areas: encouraging philanthropy in others, children with life-limiting conditions, empowerment, and, as befits a food company, nutrition.
So why didn’t Paul Newman spend all his money from Newman’s Own on himself and his family? From all reports, he was a genuinely caring individual who shunned the Hollywood celebrity maelstrom by living for more than 50 years in Westport, Connecticut with his wife. In his adopted state, he sponsored three other philanthropic ventures. In 2006, he opened a restaurant called the Dressing Room, which helped subsidize the Westport Country Playhouse, which unfortunately closed a year ago. He also sponsored the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for children with cancer and other blood-related diseases (and their siblings) in Ashford, Connecticut, that got a $50,000 Grant from Positive Tracks this month and another initiative in Ashford, a "Discovery" program for inner-city kids.
Paul Newman seemed to have it all, but he shared much of his wealth to help others. “What could be better than to hold your hand out to people who are less fortunate than you are?” he said.