Calvin Hilton talks Operation Feed at Bread Financial: Uniting to meet a basic need
As Chief Diversity Officer, Calvin Hilton oversees all aspects of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy at Bread Financial. This year, he’s also one of three Executive Champions for the company’s Operation Feed campaign. What could be more equitable, he asks, than ensuring everyone has access to a necessity?
“If you don't have your basic needs met, like hunger, it’s hard for you to function in any part of society,” Calvin said. “So, the fact that our company has taken on this vision of helping people who are food insecure has been phenomenal, because it is so basic for everyone.”
Operation Feed is Bread Financial’s second-largest annual fundraising campaign, and as an Executive Champion, Calvin encourages all associates to give of their time and treasure – as they are able – to help stamp out hunger in their communities. Since 2017, he has served as a board member of the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) in Plano, Texas, which directs 95 percent of its resources to hunger relief programs across 13 counties in the Lone Star State.
“We are committed to helping nourish and feed North Texas,” Calvin said. “But it’s hard to tell where people are in terms of food security. Don't make assumptions based on what you see on the outside. Some people want to look good no matter what, but really, they’re hurting inside.”
According to the NTFB, one in six people in North Texas goes hungry every single day, and one in five children is food insecure. At least once per month, Calvin volunteers his time to help this population, packing and serving meals at the food bank. In February, he helped assemble 12,000 weekend hunger packs for children who normally rely on school breakfasts and lunches for their daily meals.
“It was pretty phenomenal,” he said. “And that’s why I do this – it makes a difference. It changes people's lives. That week, I knew a child was going to be enjoying a pack we made.”
Learn more about Operation Feed in the Q&A with Calvin below.
What is your personal “why” for participating in Operation Feed?
The thought that a child is going to go home and not know where their next meal is going to come from – or is going to be hungry until next Monday when they go back to school – that’s frightening. If a child doesn't have a good meal or if they go to school hungry, how do they concentrate and get their work done? Those are things we take for granted, but this is about equity. If they can’t progress at school and if their grades suffer, they have other long-term issues down the road. I will personally participate in any way I can to stamp out hunger for children and their families; that's just near and dear to my heart.
How does tackling food insecurity support Bread Financial’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts?
We all give off a persona in terms of who we are. My wife ran into a church member at a food bank who we see every Sunday. Hard times had fallen upon this person and his wife, so they were at a food bank trying to get the bare necessities. If you saw them outside the food bank, you would never have suspected anything was wrong. When I think about DE&I and the work we do, when we start to spend a little bit more time with folks and we dig a little deeper, we find there are things people carry with them every day that we don’t see.
Why do you believe it is so difficult to eradicate food insecurity?
As one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we have the ability to stamp hunger out, but there are so many other competing priorities. Also, there is a certain amount of pride to overcome. Think about what it takes as an individual to make that first step into a food pantry and say, “I need help.” In many ways, you have to set aside your pride to get help, and that is really hard.
How would you encourage Bread Financial associates to help fight food insecurity in their communities?
Each of us has a story. Each of us has someone in our life who we care about that is struggling. Take the baby step of trying to help someone do something. Or else, volunteer anywhere! It doesn’t have to be related to Operation Feed. We have multiple opportunities through Bread Financial to go out and make a difference. I look at it this way: We have been blessed at this company to have wonderful careers. We have been given a lot. So, it will make you feel good on the inside to make a difference for somebody else.
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