One of the three pillars for the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance is education, and the organization is fond of sharing insights on this commitment.
For the 2021-22 school year, the alliance is donating about $165,000 in scholarships along with $20,000 to the Arizona State University Food Industry Management Program.
“One thing that we’ve been working on for years is to try to get the number of employees to take advantage of our scholarships,” said Mark Miller, AFMA president.
For the first time, the organization gave two thirds of the scholarships to employees in the businesses, both on the supplier and retailer sides.
“Our scholarships also are available to their children that are going to in-state Arizona schools. But it’s usually been about 60 percent going to the dependents, and only about 40 percent going to the actual employee,” Miller explained.
AFMA collaborated with ASU years ago to put together a food industry management degree, with a focus on agriculture and all other aspects of the retail grocery supply chain. AFMA has also partnered with Grand Canyon University to offer the AFMA Educational Alliance Scholarship.
All online degrees are impacted by the scholarship, including bachelor, master and doctoral, according to Scott McIntosh, GCU counselor. Any employee, of the AFMA member companies, is eligible for a 10 percent tuition reduction for the three types of degrees and there is no cost to AFMA.
Miller wanted also to recognize AFMA general manager Debbie Roth, who is retiring after 37 years with the association.
“With her guidance, the board of trustees was able to award over $2 million in scholarships,” Miller said.
AFMA also has grown its scholarship fund to more than $1 million to date.
In regard to outreach, Miller said members would like to get more involved with community organizations as well.
“We’re going to look to be a bigger part of the community and have AFMA support, what is important to our members,” Miller said. “So we’re going to make that our goal for 2022 to see if we can support the 501(c)3 charities that our members support.”
AFMA legislative priorities
Following the last legislative session, there was a bill passed permitting certain businesses to sell mixed alcoholic drinks to go. This includes bars, restaurants and liquor stores, according to a news release from the office of Gov. Doug Ducey.
“The bill was very long and wasn’t quite what we wanted the outcome to be,” Miller said. “So we are going to work to see if we can clean up the language that will clarify it and give our members a little more understanding of what they can and cannot do.”
There is also a continued focus on tobacco laws.
“To date, all of our retailers do match up with the federal, mandatory age of 21 to purchase any tobacco,” Miller said. “But the state legislation has not corrected that. And we also want to include some wording that will continue to protect the youth from being able to purchase any tobacco products.”