Feeding America is the fourth-largest charity in the country, and its lists of leadership and supporting partners reads like a who’s who of generous individuals and corporations across the country.
Apparently, if you’ve got an altruistic bone in your body, you give to Feeding America. Its supporters include Food Lion, Kroger, Kellogg, Ben Affleck, Bob Dylan, the Kresge Foundation, Howard Buffett, the County Music Television network, and America's top-earning hedge fund manager, David Tepper.
See what we mean? Feeding America's donor base is crazy diverse, and its Charity Navigator rating is solid gold, a perfect four out of four.
It’s really no wonder that everyone likes them. For starters, the outfit has a great bootstraps-up backstory. It started with a soup kitchen volunteer, John Van Hengel, who in the late 1960s was bringing in way more donated food than he could put to use. And when he put out a call to nearby grocery stores to donate their “seconds,” or produce unfit for sale, Van Hengel ended up with even more food. He founded St. Mary’s Food Bank, the first food bank in the country. In 1975, Van Hengel got an enormous federal grant to go national, and he launched what was then called Second Harvest.
Second Harvest merged with Foodchain, a food rescue organization, in 2001, and changed its name to Feeding America in 2008. Its main mission is stocking and operating food banks across the country, and we think that may be the secret to its popularity. What could be nobler than boxes of donated food handed off to folks in need? It’s so direct. There’s scant room for overhead; no disgruntled employee is going to embezzle boxes of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese.
Also, widespread hunger in the United States, with all its wealth, stands out as notably obscene, and it's hard to imagine that there's isn't a ready fix for this problem. People are hungry in a bountiful country; give them food.
While the important work of funding brain research, elder care, and youth fitness programs is no less noble, it is more abstract. It’s murky and it’s complex. Feeding America, by contrast, is a money-in, food-out program. Though it does fund some initiatives that are a little more involved than a simple food bank, such as a school-based program allowing kids in need to bring home a backpack full of food for the weekend, almost everything it does is so tidily quantifiable and squeaky-clean that it attracts donations from everyone including grocery store chains, celebs, and media outlets.
As if that all wasn’t enough to give Feeding America a serious halo, let us tell you that in 2013, CEO Bob Aiken made $32,348. That’s right, less than the average starting schoolteacher’s salary. Do nonprofits get any more apple-cheeked than this? We don’t think so.