UPDATE: John Arnold, the Grand Rapids guy who said it would be “humiliating” to lose to Fresno, responded to what I wrote in this post via e-mail. Read it at the bottom of this post.
ORIGINAL POST, 12/13: Fresno still sits atop the voting for Walmart’s Fighting Hunger campaign — but it’s time to rally because No. 2 is gaining on us.
One city — determined by the most community support — will be given $1 million to feed its hungry. Five other cities will get $100K from Walmart. Voting runs until Dec. 31.
Two weeks ago, Fresno sprung to a huge lead over No. 2 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI. In the middle of last week, we were still up by as much as 6,000 votes.
This weekend, the gap closed to just about 2,500. There’s still a lot of time left, so it’s time to rally again. Tell your Facebook and Twitter friends, your e-mail list — even your MySpace peeps, if you’re still using that.
If you need some bulletin-board material to motivate you, Grand Rapid has given us some.
John Arnold, the executive director of their local chapter of Feeding America, told a Grand Rapids reporter recently: “To lose to New York City would be expected but to lose to Fresno would be humiliating.”
Mr. Arnold, if I may, both our communities are sorely in need of help to feed our hungry. If Fresno beats Grand Rapids, and more of our hungry get fed, that’s not humiliating. Hungry people are getting fed, right? Isn’t the mission of your organization? Shouldn’t you be happy either way? Even if it’s not in your backyard?
Our food hardship rate (24.1%) is higher than Grand Rapids’ (19.4%) and our populations are pretty similar — so if you’re trying to imply either we don’t need the help or somehow we aren’t on par with your community, well that’s just rubbish.
We’ll just take that jab as a bit of No. 1 spot envy.
RESPONSE FROM JOHN ARNOLD
He e-mailed this earlier today:
Nobody should be taking any of this personally. I’m sure Fresno is a very nice city. So is Grand Rapids. We’d each like our city to win. Hungry people will get fed. It’s all good, and we’re all doing cheer-leading for our city. The point I was trying to make was that we expected to lose out to a city or cities much bigger than ours is, but that if the competition is a city about our same size, there is no good reason for us to not win, especially because of how creatively the funds are likely to be used if we do win.
Within the anti-hunger community, the Grand Rapids area is known for its research, innovation and free sharing of more efficient and more effective approaches. Few communities in the U.S. have not copied and benefitted from our work. So anti-hunger dollars here do more than just feed needy people here; they feed people here and help improve charity food services nationwide.
Just as I have always been a fan of the Green Bay Packers and rejoiced in their beating “big city” teams, I am thrilled that this Walmart competition has come down to a horse race between two of America’s smaller cities. I think that says a lot of good about both Fresno and Grand Rapids. I just hope that in the end one of the two of them does win it.