Our relocation industry has always employed more than its share of socially conscious people. The essence of our work is using our special knowledge in skilled and empathetic ways to help employees and families get through big life changes. Throughout relocation management and real estate offices, you’ll find many who have come into relocation services from teaching, social work and counseling professions.
In the day-to-day crush of business, though, we all struggle at times to reconcile our employers’ expectations and our personal advancement desires with our more humanitarian sides. We’d gladly give more of ourselves to others in need if work weeks and budgets allowed, but our commercial and charitable intentions can seem inherently at odds. If only we could serve both masters: find a meaningful new way to benefit our employers and clients while also helping the larger community in the normal course of business.
In a brilliant flash of synergy, that is what Adam Lowy has done in creating Move For Hunger (MFH). This charity uses the work we already do—and the resources we already have—to route otherwise discarded food to those most in need of it. In the six years since its founding, Move For Hunger has gathered and distributed 5.4 million pounds of non-perishable foods to needy people throughout the U.S. and Canada, with 1.7 million pounds last year alone. The program can continue to grow as fast as new local commitments will carry it, and REALTORS® are uniquely and powerfully positioned to make this happen.
The premise of Move For Hunger is that when people are relocating, they expect to discard their unused food rather than ship it. Lowy envisioned, though, that this food could be re-harvested for others if donations were made available and convenient for the departing households, or as he puts it, “bring a food drive into their living rooms.” His first such venture yielded over 300 pounds of food from his family’s moving company operations, but when he presented it to a grateful local food bank in his New Jersey home community, he learned, to his dismay, that over 100,000 people in that one county alone were in need of ongoing food support. This prompted him to the “almost accidental” start-up of Move For Hunger as an ongoing 501(c)3 charity, for which he serves as executive director.
Move For Hunger now maintains a large network of moving company partners who will, as part of their moving services, remove all suitable donated foods from a home, store it in their warehouse space and redistribute it to local charities: food kitchens, pantries and such. MFH has already expanded to include over 600 moving agencies throughout all 50 U.S. states and Canada. They find that the goodwill of this partnership helps their corporate citizenship standing and consumer perceptions of their firms, Lowy notes. Some are now using truck wraps to help promote their Move For Hunger program and affiliation.
As Move For Hunger has gained momentum, major relocation industry forces have increasingly recognized it as an elegant solution to food redistribution and a worthy outlet for their charitable energy. One early adopter was Rick Schwartz, then CEO of Brookfield Global Relocation Services, who “came across Move For Hunger by chance” via a VH1 video clip in 2011. He saw it as a “logical connection to the relocation industry, and a perfect fit with (Brookfield’s) philanthropic goals.” Schwartz, a 30-year relocation veteran, quickly shared Lowy’s vision of “an opportunity to embed the Move For Hunger process into the moving process … with direct applicability and no downside.”
On his watch, Brookfield became a sponsor partner of Move For Hunger, and found that its corporate clients in turn became enthusiastic promoters of Move For Hunger in their respective relocation programs. After retiring in 2014 from his 10-year CEO duty at Brookfield, Schwartz has remained active in both the relocation industry and charitable work. He continues his personal affiliation with Move For Hunger, serving on its Board of Directors and now as president of the board. He observes that “the organization has been quite impressive…hard-working people that want to do good.”
With these resources and capacity in place, Move For Hunger is counting on the real estate community to help drive its next stage of growth. Lowy and Schwartz see the real estate industry as “(MFH’s) biggest opportunity for growth” because of its size, scale and local presence. REALTORS® usually have much earlier contact with customers than do movers, and can raise timely awareness of the Move For Hunger option as part of their services, a free value-add for the customer and an image-enhancement for the REALTOR®. Schwartz pointed out that a Move For Hunger affiliation “gets your name out into the marketplace as benefiting the local community where you live and work.”
Move For Hunger can provide materials for listing presentations and for in-office visibility. While individual agent enrollment is welcome, as are larger-scale relationships with regional companies, the best fit with Move For Hunger so far has been at the individual office enrollment level. At this point, at least 160 REALTOR® offices have enrolled in Move For Hunger, at very modest expense for the materials provided.
As a broker/owner or relocation director, you can lead your company or offices to get involved. You can directly enroll your own offices. If you belong to broker networks (RMC-based or other), you can solicit the network host itself and your fellow members to join in. You can, as Schwartz says, “triangulate” that client/RMC/brokerage connection by introducing Move For Hunger to local businesses and offering to coordinate with their other relocation service partners. Lowy points out that you can “use (Move For Hunger) as a means to connect with your clients and your community. You can make it a sustainable part of what you do every day.”
To help your customers feed your neighbors, get involved by contacting Lowy’s team at Move For Hunger, 732-774-0521 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a look at the Real Estate Program tab for details at www.moveforhunger.org. You’ll be proud to become a part of this moving experience, in every sense of the word.
John B. Sculley, SCRP, is vice president – managing director of RIS Consulting Group.