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Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Last year, Golden Temple, a Eugene cereal and tea manufacturer, planted a seed in the local business community that's beginning to grow into a garden of support for FOOD for Lane County.

A longtime contributor to the food bank, Golden Temple foresaw that soaring food prices and a worsening economy would send more people to the food bank.

So in collaboration with FOOD for Lane County and the Ulum Group, a local public relations firm, Golden Temple came up with the idea of "Sharing Food, Awakening Goodness," a campaign to encourage local businesses to step up their donations of food, volunteer hours and money to the food bank.

Since October, Golden Temple CEO Kartar Khalsa has sent out letters and pledge cards to hundreds of local businesses, appealing to them to boost business giving to FOOD for Lane County by 20 percent by June, and to "serve as an inspiration to other communities."

Organizers say they're making good headway toward that goal.

"The cards are coming in," said Denise Griewisch, FOOD for Lane County's executive director.

So far, 28 businesses have pledged money, food or volunteer hours, she said.

For its part, Golden Temple has pledged to donate 1.5 million servings of cereal this year.

In his letter to fellow businesses, Khalsa wrote: "We've all been impacted in one way or another by our country's struggling economy The cost of living has soared, employers have cut jobs and homeowners are struggling to pay their mortgages. We are also in the midst of a global shortage of basic commodities, such as corn, wheat and rice. This has driven up the overall cost of food, which puts an additional burden on stressed families.... Through this program, we hope to inspire and challenge local businesses to help by pledging their time, money or other resources in the effort to alleviate hunger."

Golden Temple's origins date back 35 years to a group of Sikh believers living in Eugene who made their own granola and bread.

Today, the company manufactures cereal for its own brands, Peace Cereal and Sweet Home Farm, and for numerous private label customers, at its facility at 2545 Prairie Road.

It produces its line of Yogi Tea in a facility in Springfield's Gateway area.

An ethic of service is an integral part of the Sikh religion.

The namesake for Golden Temple is the Sikh temple in Amritsar in India, Khalsa said. The temple provides free meals to tens of thousands of visitors a day.

"I think it's the responsibility of business to serve their community, particularly in these times when things are tough," he said. "Those that have the good fortune to do well I think have the responsibility to share that with the community."

So far, Golden Temple has weathered the recession relatively well, still managing 15 percent growth in 2008, Khalsa said.

"Food, in general, is fairly recession-proof, and food that's perceived as helping people's health tends to be even more recession-proof," he said.

Golden Temple's call to service resonated with many others in the local business community, from other food manufacturers to the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Beau Delicious! International, the Eugene franchisor of Cafe Yumm! restaurants, has made a four-part commitment to FOOD for Lane County this year, vice president Ed Gerdes said. The company will sponsor FOOD for Lane County's "Empty Bowls" fundraiser for a third year. It will continue to place food donation bins and provide incentives for people to donate food at openings of its restaurants. Its restaurants will give in-kind donations, typically excess food that was prepared but not served, and the company will make a cash donation of several thousand dollars.

Gerdes said Golden Temple's initiative meshed with Beau Delicious!'s corporate values.

"Our company mission statement says that we will help local community groups and that we'll promote healthy lifestyles," Gerdes said.

Golden Temple's direct appeal to businesses prompted Beau Delicious! to make a more formal pledge and expand its commitments to FOOD for Lane County, thereby increasing the overall value of its donation, he said.

"Having Golden Temple take the lead in promoting greater giving opportunities is a worthwhile and helpful thing for them to do," Gerdes said. "It reminds us to, at the beginning of the year, look at how fortunate we are and what we can do to help those who are less fortunate. It made us have the conversation a little sooner, and it made us dig a little deeper."

Khalsa's letter also struck a chord with Eugene CPA firm Moss Adams.

"We are always looking for ways to give back to the community," marketing manager Linda Apling said.

"The opportunity was right, and we thought it was a great thing that Golden Temple was getting involved in, so we wanted to be a part of it."

Moss Adams has helped other local charitable organizations, such as St. Vincent de Paul, but it had been years since it had lent a hand to FOOD for Lane County, she said.

Earlier this month, 16 volunteers from the firm, including several accountants, spent three hours repackaging food at FOOD for Lane County.

"We hope to start doing it quarterly," Apling said.

"It was fun," she said. "They had us sorting beans, which is interesting because there are always jokes about accountants being bean counters."

Hunger initiative

"Sharing Food, Awakening Goodness" is a project launched by Golden Temple, a Eugene cereal and tea manufacturer, and FOOD for Lane County, to encourage local businesses to step up donations of food, volunteer time or money.

What: Golden Temple and the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will host the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce's "Business After Hours."

When: Jan. 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: It will be held at the museum, which is on the western side of campus next to the Knight Library.

Bring: Attendees are encouraged to bring cans of food for FOOD for Lane County. Pledge cards for the "Sharing Food, Awakening Goodness" project to alleviate hunger also will be available.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 22, 2009
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