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What if we shut down the Meijer Golf Tournament: Demanding Food Justice, not Food Charity

June 2, 2021

In two weeks, the Grand Rapids-based Meijer Corporation will be hosting their annual LPGA Golf Tournament at the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, MI.

This event will feature some of the best female golfers, with $2,300,000 going to the winner. 

In addition, the Meijer Corporation has been using this event as an opportunity to massage their company’s image by donating some of the money “to fight hunger.” The annual event is called the Meijer LPGA Class for Simply Give, where Meijer is asking for donations for people who are “in need.”

Who knew it, that golf tournament’s with multi-million dollar prize money can also help in the fight against hunger…….NOT. This annual event is not only insulting and offensive to anyone who has a conscience, it actually perpetuate food insecurity. People are not going hungry in this community because they are in need, they are going hungry because of much larger social inequities that the Meijer Corporation and the Meijer family are directly connected to. Here are just a few reasons why this approach to “fighting hunger” will never work.

  1. Food Charity is not Food Justice. No amount of donated food will solve the problem, because the issue is not a lack of food but the absence of equity, If people were making a just and living wage, there would not be a need to food pantries or food charity, except maybe during a natural disaster. The problem is what researchers call the Food Charity Industrial Complex, with includes pantries, larger food charity entities like Feeding America and the corporations that donate to them. The Food Charity Industrial Complex doesn’t really want to end hunger, they want to only provide temporary relief for people who are not only food insecure, but who are experiencing poverty.
  2. If we were being honest, we would name the Meijer Corporation as a Food Cartel, which works with an Agribusiness system, within the larger economic system of Capitalism. (See our Food Justice Workshop for more details.) For example, Meijer has partners for this golf event, which interestingly enough includes other major corporations, specifically other Food Cartels, which benefit from contributing to the Food Industrial Complex as a tax write off, while making billions off of food trafficking, while millions in the US are food insecure.
  3. Meijer is running ads on TV and radio stations in this market about their charitable event and the local news media is playing right along, since they do not question the merits of the Simply Give event. 
  4. This golfing event (and the Charity Industrial Complex as a whole) is normalizing the way in which society solves problems, which is through charitable efforts for the “less fortunate.” We are not allowed to ask the question, “why are so many people going hungry in our community.” We just have to accept that those who are “in need” are struggling because of some misfortune. We cannot be allowed to have any discussion that seeks to understand the root causes of hunger and the systemic forces that are the beneficiaries of hunger and poverty, like the Meijer Corporation. The normalization of food charity is particularly offensive during the COVID pandemic, which has seen a rise in people utilizing food charity services.
  5. According to a recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies, Hank & Doug Meijer’s wealth went from $10.2 Billion at the beginning of the pandemic to $12.6 Billion today. This means that Hank & Doug Meijer’s wealth increased by $2.4 Billion in the past year. The reality is that the Meijer family could redistribute equally the $2.4 billion to the people in West Michigan and effectively eliminate food insecurity for the thousands of individuals and families that are experiencing poverty. This would still leave Hank & Doug Meijer with $10.2 Billion, which should be more than enough to live on.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can’t be content with getting back to normal. Getting back to normal means we are ok with thousands of families being food insecure in Grand Rapids. Getting back to normal means we should accept working at low wage jobs, many of which are in the food industry. We cannot and should not want to get back to normal. Instead, we need to fight the massive wealth gap that exists in this community and demand redistribution of wealth. We should shut down the Meijer LPGA Golf Tournament with people who are food insecure and demand they give the purse money to people here who would really benefit from it. We should stop accepting food charity and start demanding food justice.

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