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FMI Seeking Community Uplift Award Nominations

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Last updated on June 11th, 2024 at 05:33 pm

The Shelby Report recently sat down with Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI – The Food Industry Association, to discuss its upcoming Community Uplift Awards.

Grocers and the entire food industry have always identified community engagement as a built-in aspect of their customer-centric businesses. Stories of companies lifting up local communities don’t often get seen or heard. FMI developed the Community Uplift Awards to showcase creative ways the food industry engages, nourishes and supports the communities it serves.

From programs addressing food insecurity to hosting neighborhood improvement projects, from sponsoring the local youth soccer clubs to providing disaster relief during emergencies, the food industry is dedicated to supporting communities across the globe. As such, the food industry empowers individuals and organizations to drive positive change and create a lasting impact.

How has the award program evolved?

FMI launched these awards a decade ago, and the program has changed over the years. We originally called these the Community Outreach Awards, but then we realized that food retailers and suppliers were doing much more, so we wanted a name that honored the perpetual quality of industry efforts. We also wanted a name that communicated that grocers weren’t outsiders reaching out to a community but were a vital part of the community seeking to lift it up and support it.  For those reasons, we re-branded the program the Community Uplift Awards.

We’ve also opened the Community Uplift Awards up to our supplier members to participate. I find the stories of food retailers and suppliers partnering together at the local level, especially inspiring and impactful.

To stay relevant to the types of programs we were hearing about, we recently adjusted our categories and now include a Social Impact Programs category. Here, we’re looking at programs that are focused on diversity, equality and inclusion, but also supplier diversity, food waste reduction, responsible sourcing, animal welfare, carbon emissions reduction and much more. I think this new category really rounds out the different types of Community Uplift Awards programs we’re seeing and allows us to showcase the breadth and depth of how the food industry is supporting local communities.

Last year, we welcomed The Shelby Report as a strategic partner for the Community Uplift Awards. The Shelby Report advises on the awards process, serves on a panel of judges and helps amplify the stories of the FMI Community Uplift Awards recipients. We’ve found this partnership to be a wonderful way to showcase these stories to a wider audience.

Every year, I’m particularly inspired by the creativity and complexity of the programs that are nominated. We used to see a lot of programs that involved collecting donations and supporting the community with a fundraiser. Now we’re seeing full-fledged campaigns that have many layers to them, engage multiple partners and really make a difference at several levels – often financial, but frequently coupled with volunteer opportunities and community engagement.

Why is it important to recognize companies in this way?

As sad as it is to say, these days, our attention is so frequently drawn to bad news that we can forget there is also good news out there. As the voice of the food industry, we often inform the media, lawmakers, industry partners, and others that the industry is more than regulations, recalls, and labor issues. At its heart, it is about the civil work of being a good neighbor and making our communities safer, friendlier and better-connected places to live.

For example, the Community Uplift Awards have helped us showcase how the food industry is working to meet the White House Commitments on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, including reaching 100 million consumers with evidence-based nutrition messaging and donating 2 billion meals. Nominations in our Programs Addressing Food Insecurity category and Neighborhood Health Improvement category detail how local food retailers and suppliers are making a difference in these spaces, and we are then able to share those stories more widely.

[RELATED: FMI Announces 2023 Community Uplift Award Recipients]

In addition, I’ve often found that food retailers and suppliers seldom like to toot their own horns. What I mean by that is companies in the food industry often feel helping the local community is just part of doing business and the right thing to do, and so don’t expect or even want to be rewarded for doing what they assume is “just part of what I do.” While that humility is admirable, we at FMI believe it is important to shine a light on these programs so the whole story is available. We want everyone to know how the food industry strives to be a reliable community partner, whether it be when the storm clouds are brewing or when the blue skies are smiling.

What are the categories and their criteria?

Community Uplift Award nominations seek programs sponsored by food retailers, food suppliers or both if they are partnering on a project. 

Our categories include:

  • Social Impact Programs – Programs focused on diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), supplier diversity, food waste reduction, responsible sourcing, package waste reduction, animal welfare, water use or carbon emissions reduction.
  • Programs Addressing Food Insecurity – Food drives, food bank donations and commitments to increase access to fresh food in underserved areas.
  • Neighborhood Health Improvement Programs – Nutrition education, blood drives, health related runs/walks, sustainability education and community involvement.

Nominations are evaluated on the basis of store-level, corporate and community participation; how the program addresses a community need; the breadth and depth of the program and finally, originality and creativity.

Who are the judges?

We’re still securing our panel of judges for this year, but we usually seek industry insiders who are familiar with store operations or community efforts to take part in our judging process. We’re also honored to have our strategic partner, The Shelby Report, serve on the panel of judges for the Community Uplift Awards. 

What is the nomination deadline?

Nominations for the Community Uplift Awards opened June 3, with the deadline to submit June 28. You must be a member of FMI to participate in the nomination process. Nominations are collected online at www.FMI.org/CommunityUplift.

When will the winners be announced?

Recipients of the 2024 Community Uplift Awards will be announced in late July.

What do the winners receive?

First-place recipients in each category receive a $1,000 donation to enhance the program and a plaque recognizing the program. All nominees receive recognition on FMI’s website and in our digital communications. We also include Community Uplift Award stories in our media initiatives and nominees are included in an online idea bank for food industry community service projects that serves as a resource for food retailers and suppliers looking to start or refresh their own community uplift programs.

Anything else you would like to add?

I remember back during the COVID-19 pandemic when actor and filmmaker John Krasinski created the SomeGoodNews network and would weekly showcase good news going on in the world. It was a time when we all needed cheering up, connecting and some laughs. It was also a time when members of the food industry were on the front lines, working tirelessly to keep America fed.

I remember thinking at the time that the SomeGoodNews network was a lot like our Community Uplift Awards – a chance to showcase the good going on in the world. My hope is that food retailers and suppliers who haven’t participated in the Community Uplift Awards previously consider submitting a nomination and adding their good news to the narrative about the food industry. Because sometimes we just need to spotlight the good going on in the world.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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