Bloom Farms, a California cannabis company, has donated 1 million meals as part of its corporate social responsibility program.
For every product purchased, Bloom Farms gives the equivalent of one meal to a state food bank. “Donating our one-millionth meal shows that we’re succeeding for our customers, who have purchased one million of our products and appreciate that we are working toward the greater good, and for California’s most vulnerable families who have received the gift of nutritious food,” CEO Michael Ray said in a statement announcing the news.
It’s a twist on the model popularized by TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, which donate one of their products – shoes and eyeglasses, respectively – for each one sold. Now, a variety of companies have adopted the one-for-one model, giving away everything from socks to books to medical scrubs.
For Ray, the cause of food insecurity is a personal one. California’s child food insecurity rate is about 20 percent – one in five children don’t get enough to eat. Some of Ray’s childhood friends were drawn to his home for meals. The problem hit home once he got older and started hearing statistics about food insecurity in the state: “I realized there is a high likelihood that my family friends were from food-insecure families,” said Ray.
Beyond the company’s one-for-one program, Bloom Farms gives its employees four hours of paid volunteer time per month. While workers can choose any cause to volunteer their time, many of them opt to help out at one of Bloom Farms’ partner food banks.
Companies of all stripes are being called on by both consumers and investors to adopt more social responsibility into their business practices. Earlier this month, CEO of BlackRock Laurence D. Fink made waves when he penned a letter to business leaders explaining that they’d need to do more than simply make money: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” he wrote.
But for cannabis companies, giving back can be a challenge due to the stigma surrounding the industry.
When Bloom Farms first launched its one-for-one program in 2015, it was turned down by several organizations.
“They didn’t say they were philosophically against [cannabis], they just had various board members that were unwilling to accept financial donations from companies like us,” said Ray. “We’re just trying to make a positive impact on our community. It was relatively shocking to see how difficult that was.”
Finally, he got a meeting with SF-Marin Food Bank.
“I told them my story about how I’d been turned down, and their jaws literally dropped. They were shaking their heads,” said Ray. “They said, ‘this cause is not political, we’re just trying to feed people.’ That was music to my ears.”
A partnership soon began and has since grown to include several other food banks in the state.
“Milestones like this go a long way to showing the impact cannabis companies can have and changing perceptions of the cannabis industry,” said Ray in a statement.
An increasing number of cannabis companies have been stepping up their social responsibility efforts. Cannabis producer CannaCraft hosted about 200 Red Cross volunteers at its headquarters during the Northern California wild fires last year. Cannabis-focused charities have also been cropping up, donating medical marijuana to terminally ill patients and veterans.
Buoyed by adult-use legalization in California, Ray says that the stigma is shifting.
“Everything we do pushes against the negative stereotypes, and we’ve seen great progress over the past few years,” he said. “We’re very excited to donate millions of more meals to food insecure families in California and beyond.”