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Good Works in the Age of Capitalism

This year I’ve been hanging out with a new crowd, a group of people who are interested in getting to know strangers, loving people for who they are rather than what they buy, and getting rid of excess stuff to make room for deeper connections. It’s been a positive change. Ironically, while these folks have opened their inner circle to me, they sometimes cast a skeptical eye when I share bits of my work experience. In their minds, marketing research is a shady enterprise. They often ask, ‘aren’t you tricking people to buy things?’ Oh, what a pickle. To me, marketing research is deeper than that – it gives me a chance to understand humans, what’s important to them and how they think and behave. Although that answer doesn’t quite satisfy skeptics, I like to take a moment to turn their attention to the good deed done by retailers (some of which I get to take part in!).

With back-to-school around the corner, local kids are really lamenting leaving the pool for the stuffy enclosure of the classroom. Not to mention that long, tedious shopping trip to collect a litany of supplies. But while some suffer from these inconveniences, others face bigger challenges: food insecurity. It’s estimated that more than 12 million kids live in food insecure homes and may not have enough to eat, creating a crisis in their educational growth. Empty bellies result in less focus, causing less retention of knowledge.

One local charity and grocery are working together to fight that. Weaver Street Market, a Chapel Hill and Hillsborough food coop, and Table are working with local shoppers to round up their receipt totals to help feed hungry kids locally. This summer the program helped feed nearly 500 hungry kids over ten weeks of summer, making sure that kids who may rely on reduced price breakfast and lunch at school didn’t go hungry while at home. This fall their backpack program aims to continue getting food into the hands of the neediest kids in my area, providing free after school snacks so hunger is one less obstacle to face. Without the loyalty of shoppers and local volunteers, loyalty built through delivering the products, services, and values shoppers crave, this program could have fallen flat.

So sure, it’s easy to stick a negative label on an industry but sometimes, just sometimes, we should stop to celebrate the good works and partnerships that come from the retailer-customer relationship. Feel free to read here about Weaver Street’s food partnership. 

Do you have a story of good works to share? Please post about it in the comments!

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