by John Mennell
I recently visited the Field of Dreams in Iowa and stood at the far edge of the outfield where it meets the corn ready to harvest.
The harvest season is upon us – when farmers reap what they have sown and families pick apples and navigate corn mazes.  We kicked-off our September literacy celebration on International Literacy Day and our anniversary (9/8) and will continue on through Children’s Magazine Month in October and the holiday giving season through the end of the year with our own Magazine Harvest.  This is an ambitious nationwide undertaking to locate, collect, and deliver magazines from throughout the magazine publishing supply chain – from printer through newsstand and consumer – to at-risk children and families via food bank and food pantry warehouses.  As with any bountiful harvest, this one begins with planting seeds:

  • For many years now, we’ve conducted magazine collections in coffee shops and grocery stores and newsstand magazine drives, which operate like food drives.  We’ve collected magazines in bins at Starbucks, Whole Foods, and other locations in many cities.
  • Our first newsstand magazine drive was conducted by Surya Prabhakar, a Boy Scout in New Jersey who earned his Eagle Rank and continues to provide literacy leadership.  We ask all our local literacy teams to organize magazine drives and we are reaching out to grocery and bookstore chains to expand these partnerships.
  • We’ve begun discussions with publishers seeking supplies of magazines past their shelf and with large food bank warehouses that each serve hundreds of community agencies and thousands of readers.  Recently, we received 10,000 children’s magazines from the Cricket/Cobblestone Publishing Group that we are channeling to community programs via food distribution warehouses.
  • We’ve partnered with numerous community food pantries and food pantry networks to distribute magazines to agencies and readers.

On Long Island, Greg Barber, a long-time environmentalist and champion of our literacy work and founder with his son Neil of the Neil’s Wheels hunger relief program introduced us to Noelle Campbell – Executive Director of the The Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center food pantry.  The organization provides emergency food assistance to those in need in the Wyandanch area of Long Island and neighboring communities. The pantry is one of the largest food pantries of its kind on Long Island–providing assistance to an average of 15,000 men, women and children each year.
Greg and Noelle
In Madison, Wisconsin, where we are setting up a global operations center, we are actively reaching out to the hunger relief providers and have already partnered with two organizations to distribute gently read recycled magazines from consumers, businesses, and publishers:
The Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin provided food via its network of food pantries to 68,726 people who made 824,712 visits last year.
The River Food Pantry feeds 600+ Dane County families per week providing hot meals, groceries, clothing, and household items to over 27,000 with over 74,000 individuals, each year.
Our partnerships with food distribution partners expand and increase our effectiveness and efficiency distributing valuable reading materials to meet community literacy objectives. Access to the food bank distribution network via participating agencies is a game changer as the most direct and comprehensive method for getting magazines into the hands and homes of at-risk readers who have too few reading materials.
Why Food Banks?
Supplying magazines via food banks increases delivery efficiency with many parallels to food delivery:

  • Promoting literacy empowers people and helps to break the cycle of hunger and poverty.
  • Adults unable to read where once children who didn’t learn how – like filling empty food shelves and bodies, getting reading materials into homes and hands attacks a significant root cause of hunger.
  • Food meets basic human needs. Magazines for literacy meet basic learning needs.
  • Variety in the diet is critical for good health. Magazines offer tremendous reading variety for every age, reading level, subject area, and literacy program objective.
  • The logistics of food collection and distribution matches the logistics for magazine collection and delivery to programs, people, and homes – via warehouse to grocery bags and backpacks.
  • A magazine drive operates like a food drive, but feeds kids and families hungry to read.
  • Most retail magazine purchases happen at grocery store newsstands.

Why Magazines are Special for Literacy
Magazines are an especially powerful reading resource for children, families, and literacy programs:

  • There are magazines for every age, reading level, and subject interest.
  • Magazines educate and entertain.
  • Magazines arrive periodically with fresh information that is both timely and timeless.
  • Magazines help foster a sense of ownership and build self-esteem.
  • Magazines help people and mentors find common interests.
  • Magazines are familiar and not intimidating, offering quiet, peaceful diversion.
  • Magazines are engagingly beautiful – colorful and vibrant.
  • Magazines are inspirational and aspirational.
  • People of all ages love magazines and love to share them, especially for literacy.

Starbucks Magazine CollectionJoin us to plant and grow the seeds of Magazine Harvest in your community.  Let us know about the magazines that you love to read and want to share with others.  What’s your role in the magazine supply chain?  Help us to change the world – one magazine at a time!