Articles and Information from GA Foods

Ritch Brandon

SVP of Marketing and Strategy. MBA and BS, Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.
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Becoming a Great Leader

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Jul 19, 2017 12:50:14 PM

leadership.jpgThe first thing to realize about leadership is that it comes in many varieties. There are leaders who help others tap into their latent talents, leaders that chart a new course that those around them may not have discovered on their own, and leaders who collaborate with members of the same team to solve problems that seem unsolvable at the outset. 

Now, even though there might be subtly different shades of leadership, all great leaders do have a few things in common. All great leaders communicate effectively and encourage everyone around them to collaborate in a way that brings people's talents to bear on every new project. At the same time, leaders also encourage enthusiasm and a sense of excitement for the current project. They motivate the team to achieve a clearly communicated common goal.

Communication, Friendliness, and Openness to New Input 

A great leader knows when to step in, offer a pep talk, or hang back and allow the team to come to its own solution. It's all a matter of what's going to be beneficial for morale over the short and long term. Bringing a sense of openness, friendliness, and fairness to everything that you do lets those around you know that you're on the same team and working with them instead of giving them orders and commands. 

You might not immediately tie together friendliness, good leadership and professional collaboration but each of these feeds into the other. Since the values that leaders embody tend to filter down through a company or organization, you can actually make other people more willing to share and collaborate on ideas by creating a friendly environment in which your fellow employees feel like their ideas will be valued in turn. 

While bringing empathy and friendliness to all of your communications is never going to hurt, there are a few barriers to effective communication that might not be as easy to spot. Using jargon and making things more complicated than they need be is one roadblock to effective communication and great leadership.

Other communication barriers are failing to take another person's background or training into account and not realizing another person's perception can differ from one's own. So, how can you overhaul your communication to be a more effective and respected leader? Start by framing issues in a way that's relevant and appropriate to the people with whom you work. Try not to speak down to people and, at the same time, value their input. 

To really get the most out of everyone at your organization ask questions that require some kind of elaboration - questions that require a speedy yes-or-no response have their place, but when you're looking to get to the root cause of an issue or discover how best to motivate and inspire people, you want a little more information than a standard yes-or-no response can provide. Dig a little deeper and you might be surprised at the insight you can gain from the others on your team.

Good Leaders are Committed to Professional Development 

The best leaders across industries are positive role models for other professionals - being a positive role model and "practicing what you preach" shows everyone around you that you're taking your job seriously. An added benefit is that being a positive role model often creates a virtuous cycle in the workplace, which means that your behavior and values inspire others to achieve their best every single day. 

Leaders that standout are humble, passionate about what they do, and understand their own and their coworkers' unique set of talents and areas in need of improvement. A good leader finds a happy medium between tapping into the creative and professional potential of every staff member without overtaxing or overworking anyone. It's about moving people towards a shared goal and offering a doable challenge every day. 

Good leaders are also interested in pursuing professional development for themselves and others around them so that they're always improving and raising the bar on the level of challenges that they can surmount. Cross-training work exercises, on-site workshops and taking advantage of ongoing mentoring opportunities are three excellent ways to continue your professional development throughout your career and inspire others to do the same. 

Just as cross training in sports can make athletes more able to tackle different kinds of challenges, cross training in the workplace creates fitter employees who bring more value to the organization. Learning how to carry out complementary work activities ultimately facilitates collaboration between departments and increases the knowledge base of employees who undergo such programs. 

Finding a business mentor who's further along the same professional path that you're on can also provide you expert counsel and help you avoid common pitfalls while exposing you to fresh networking opportunities. Setting up a mentoring program for every employee - shown to increase workplace satisfaction and employee retention - uses existing resources to inspire tomorrow's leaders. 

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Topics: President's Messages, Leadership, Professional Development, Mentoring

Volunteer Management

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Feb 1, 2017 11:09:00 AM

Volunteer-Management.jpgVolunteerism is essential to effective day-to-day operations for many non-profit organizations, providing them with assistance and expertise that organizations with limited resources may otherwise be unable to obtain on their own. In other words, the time, labor and skills that volunteers contribute to these organizations help them do more with less, providing them the means to better serve their communities. However, reaping those benefits depends on the ability to attract and retain the volunteers your organization needs. Here we'll outline some key points related to volunteer management that can help in your efforts at doing so.

Who Volunteers and Why?

Attracting volunteers to your organization means marketing your mission and opportunities to the pool of potential volunteers in your area. Effective marketing begins with knowing who your targets – in this case, potential volunteers – are and what motivates them.

Who volunteers? According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24.9 percent of Americans volunteered between September 2014 and September 2015. Women volunteered more often than men, with 27.8 percent of women donating their time, as opposed to 21.8 percent of men. Individuals ranging in age from 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 volunteered in larger numbers than those of other age groups, coming in at 28.9 percent and 28.0 percent, respectively. Teens, ages 16 to 19, were more likely to volunteer than young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, with 26.4 percent of teens volunteering as compared to 18.4 percent of young adults. Married people had higher rates of volunteerism (29.9 percent) than individuals who never married (19.9 percent). Other groups with higher volunteer rates included parents with children under the age of 18 (31.3 percent), employed individuals – especially part-time workers – and people with higher levels of education.

Why Do People Volunteer? A study done by Australian researchers sought to answer that question, dividing volunteers into groups according to self-reported motivations. According to study authors, 20 percent of volunteers are primarily motivated by the opportunity to help others, while 15 percent are motivated by three primary factors: personal satisfaction, doing something worthwhile and helping others. 10 percent listed their primary motivations as follows: personal satisfaction, doing something worthwhile, helping others, social contact, to be active and to put skills and experience to use. 21 percent of volunteers were motivated by a family member or friend involved with a particular organization or cause. Finally, 16 percent of volunteers were motivated by feelings of obligation and/or the desire to gain work experience and skills.

Older adults, age 44 and over, are most likely to be motivated by a desire to help others, stay active, do something worthwhile, maintain social contact and use skills they have developed over a lifetime, while young adults are more likely to be motivated towards volunteerism as a means to gain work experience and skills, or by a friend or relative within the chosen organization. Married people with young children are most likely to volunteer for organizations that serve children.

So How Do These Facts Affect Recruitment and Volunteer Management?

First, they can help your volunteer coordinator or committee build individual profiles, or personas, of the type of person that would best suit the volunteer opportunities you have on offer. Doing so avoids a mistake common to many organizations – operating on the assumption that volunteers are similar, regardless of demographic or motivational differences – and helps create a more targeted and efficient recruitment process. Forming an accurate appraisal of the type of volunteers you need also helps in managing volunteers more effectively, increasing your odds of placing recruits in positions suit their personal motivations for donating their time, keeping them more engaged and satisfied for increased volunteer retention.

For instance, for the heath-related non-profit that needs volunteers to fill positions that involve fundraising, management, information technology, and operations, targeting recruitment efforts towards the well-educated middle-aged or older adult population is wise, since this demographic is often motivated by the desire to put their skills and experience to work for their community. If filling community volunteer positions is your goal, such as home visits or daily meal deliveries to seniors, volunteers of or approaching retirement age are often your best bet, since they tend to be motivated by the desire to help others and remain active. They also typically devote more hours to volunteerism than the average person are more likely to remain in volunteer positions long-term.

The basic take-away for non-profits who wish to improve volunteer recruitment and retention is that solid volunteer management must be a priority. Given the potential benefits of an efficient, effective volunteer force to your organization, matching the right person to the right opportunity is just as important in your volunteer work force as it is for paid employees.

Download Volunteer Engagement Tips

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Topics: Volunteers, Volunteerism

Volunteering Trends in 2016

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Jan 16, 2017 11:52:04 AM



What motivates someone to volunteer?

And what are they volunteering for?

How many hours a month are they donating to favorite organizations?


Understanding trends in volunteering in the U.S. may be helpful to your efforts recruiting volunteers for your organization. Here are facts about volunteering that we have found.

Volunteering Statistics 2016

People of all ages volunteer their time.  For 2016, the percentages of the total number of volunteers in America by age were very similar.

PieChart_Volunteers by Age2.png

  • 18 to 34-year-old adults made up 28%
  • 35 to 54-year-old adults made up 33%
  • Adults aged 55 and older made up 34%

More women than men volunteer, 28 percent of women volunteer vs. 22 percent of men. Across all age groups and education levels, women volunteer more than men.


Family-with-Graduate-Mom.pngMarried people volunteer more than single people. Parents with children under the age of 18 are more likely to volunteer (31 percent) than people without children (26 percent).

Those with higher levels of education are more likely to volunteer. Of people age 25 and older, almost 40 percent of those with bachelor’s degree or higher volunteer.  Twenty-seven percent of employed people volunteer, while 23 percent of the unemployed volunteer. Employed volunteers are more likely to work full-time.


Why Do People Volunteer?

Understanding what motivates people to volunteer will help you recruit and keep volunteers.

A report from Verified Volunteers shows that 75 percent of younger volunteers (ages 35 and younger), prefer to use what they’ve learned in school or at work.

Kitchen Production Line_Volunteers.pngThose who are older (55 and over) aren’t as concerned with using their skills. They choose volunteering opportunities that help their communities in the best possible ways. In fact, 80 percent of those interviewed said they just wanted to help their community in any way they could. 

The Verified Volunteers research report shows most volunteers are repeat volunteers. More than 61 percent of volunteers return to assist the organizations they volunteer with. These volunteers give an average of 29 hours of their time each month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that most volunteers work for religious organizations (33 percent of all volunteers).  Educational or youth-services ranks second (with 25 percent of volunteers). No matter the type of organization, the main activity of most volunteers is to collect, prepare and distribute food. This is good news for organizations such as Meals on Wheels or local senior centers.

Older volunteers tend to turn to religious organizations, while younger volunteers prefer to help out non-profits and educational services.

Numbers Are Down

From 2015 to 2016, the number of people who volunteered actually dropped. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics say volunteer rates have been steadily declining for more than ten years.

The president of VolunteerMatch believes the volunteering rates are falling because the United States doesn’t invest enough resources in non-profits. He believes that without resources, non-profits do not have the time or money to attract and engage new volunteers.

Volunteering Trends

The most recent U.S. data about the value of volunteers is from 2015:

  • 62.6 million people volunteered
  • 7.9 billion hours of service were provided
  • Volunteers contributed $184 billion of services
  • The estimated value of a volunteer hour in the U.S. reached $23.56. 

While volunteering may be down, people still want to help. And their help is invaluable. As you develop your organization's plan to recruit and retain volunteers, keep the reasons people volunteer in mind. Volunteers want to help in areas where they can do good in their communities. For more help with recruiting and retaining volunteers, download our free tip sheet, The Path to Volunteer Engagement.

Download Volunteer Engagement Tips

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Topics: Volunteering Trends, Volunteers, Volunteerism

Department of Elder Affairs Warns Florida Seniors of Phone Scam

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Sep 1, 2016 1:30:00 PM



Beware of aggressive callers posing as senior service providers

Tallahassee - The Department of Elder Affairs is warning Florida residents to watch out for scam artists who are allegedly making calls pretending to be the Department or an organization they refer to as Senior Services. These callers are using a method known as "spoofing" to make it appear on Caller ID as if the call is coming from a number belonging to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs' fax line - (850) 414-2004


The callers are asking for personal information, including credit card information for payment of services, including funeral insurance, and are attempting to defraud those they call. Several individuals from across the state, including many who are not elders, have contacted the Department of Elder Affairs about the harassing calls.


The Department of Elder Affairs does not solicit payment for services of clients over the phone, nor does it contact individuals in this manner. As technology progresses, scammers and con artists, are finding new ways to exploit elders, including scam phone calls appearing to be from trustworthy organizations, like Elder Affairs or law enforcement.


In the last fiscal year, the Florida Department of Children and Families received more than 50,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of Florida elders. More than 8,100, or 16 percent, were reports of financial exploitation - the third largest category of reported abuse. Nationwide, almost 90 percent of all elder abuse occurs in a domestic setting, usually by a family member or someone the victim knows. These figures do not include exploitation by strangers, so the numbers could actually be much higher when factoring in fraud attempts like these phone calls from unknown parties.


The Department of Elder Affairs reminds you to never give out personal information to unknown individuals who call you, including credit card or bank account information, technology passwords, or your Social Security number. If you receive a call from (850) 414-2004, do not provide the caller with any personal information; simply hang up. If you received one of these calls and provided payment to the callers, please contact your local law enforcement to file a report.

#   #   #

The Department of Elder Affairs, the State Unit on Aging, serves seniors as they live, contribute, and build legacies in Florida. For more information, please visit


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In Celebration of Older Americans Month

Posted by Ritch Brandon on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation on April 18, 1963 designating the month of May as Senior Citizens Month, later to become known as Older Americans Month.

May's designation as Older American's Month has created a time for us all to pause and acknowledge the contributions of our most experienced citizens, particularly those who served and defended our country.  We at GA Foods have proudly served older Americans through Meals on Wheels programs since 1973.  And for over 15 years, the SunMeadow® brand has become a mainstay in the knapsacks and cargo pant pockets of U.S. troops on the move.  We are proud to take this time to pause and reflect on the accomplishments and contributions of those we serve.

President John F. KennedyThe average age of the seniors we serve is 78 years old.  Someone that is 78 was born in 1937 or 1938.  At that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States, the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey, and the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.  Since then, our "average" senior has lived through the Attack on Pearl Harbor, WWII, the Korean War, the ratification of six amendments to the United States Constitution, the discovery of DNA, Brown vs. Board of Education, the development of the polio vaccine, the Vietnam War, the signing of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964, the Cuban Missle Crisis, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, Watergate, Roe vs. Wade,  and eight different government administrations...and that was just in the first half of their lives so far!

The knowledge and wisdom that an entire generation has accumulated through those events is a national treasure.  For all of you who have "well experienced" adults in your lives, be it your parents, grandparents, other family or friends, we urge you to take the time in May to reach out and visit with this special person.  Listen to their stories.  Receive their wisdom and perspective on life.  Be there to lend support...even for "simple things" that are no longer quite so simple for them.

While GA Foods provides home delivered meals to older adults year-round, we will use May to focus on how older adults in our community are leading and inspiring others, how we can support and learn from them, and how we might follow their examples to blaze trails in our own lives.  We wish all "older Americans" great health and happiness!  

Wellness Resources for Olders Adults

Brain Health
Source: Administration for Community Living

Falls Prevention
Source: National Council on Aging

Go4Life Exercise & Physical Activity Campaign
Source: National Institute on Aging

Healthy Eating As We Age
Source: USDA

Long-term Care Planning
Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Older Adults and Oral Health
Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Sleep and Aging
Source: National Institutes of Health

Discover OAM: Visit

Contact your Area Agency on Aging:
Visit or call 1-800- 677-1116


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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers

Senior Centers Impact Lives

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Jan 11, 2016 1:48:31 PM

We are so blessed.  Our team at GA Foods has the opportunity to serve some of the most grateful, needing, and loving people who are full of wisdom, spunk, and life.  We are regularly Junk_Mail_on_Vimeo.pngtouched by thank you notes, stories from our co-workers and the personal interaction we have with those we serve, particularly "our" seniors.  The following video is a beautiful window into the lives of those we love and serve.  

Be careful.  You will be moved.


98-year-old Mary moves us to tears

Mary is just like so many of the seniors we serve at congregate centers across the country.  She is, actually, one of the lucky ones who is not home-bound and unable to maintain the social bonds that senior centers provide to our sometimes forgotten neighbors.


If you were moved as much as we were, please share this post to remind others to visit their grandparents or support a local senior program.  

Do you have a story to share?

We would love to hear more stories about the impact your local senior center or Meals on Wheels program has had on a senior you know and love.  Please post any stories you are willing to share in the Comments section below.

Click here to learn more about GA Foods and how we nourish seniors.


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Topics: Senior Health, Food Assistance, Caregivers, Food Security Impact

Last Minute Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Meals

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Dec 23, 2015 8:01:00 AM

It’s that time of year again, the whirlwind month in the heart of winter when people come together to celebrate family, friends, and the passing of the old year into the new. For some, as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For others, it’s one of the most stressful times of the year.

stress-free_holiday.pngThe holidays revolve around food and gifts. Everywhere you go there’s food on offer, from luscious baked goods to decadent treats you only make once a year. And whether you’re having a family get-together or a formal party, food is usually part of the picture. It’s the time of year when you dust off your skills, try new festive things, and generally stress about whether your version of a favorite holiday treat is as good as your grandmother’s was.

It doesn’t have to be stressful. Whether you’re concerned about eating healthy, or you’re just pressed for time, holiday food doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few simple tips for stress-free holiday eating, so you’re free to enjoy the real gifts of the season and celebrate.

Food doesn’t have to be complicated

There’s a reason so many traditional holiday treats are complex and time-consuming--most of them date from the days of the one-income family, when women stayed home and had all day to cook. Today, most of us have jobs, many of us have children or other people we care for, and few of us have time to take on these intricate recipes.

So keep it simple. Some of the most delicious dishes out there have only a few ingredients and are easy to prepare. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t have time to make Grandma’s baklava or Great Aunt Minnie’s divinity candy. Stick to simpler fare and you’ll find that not only do you have less stress, you have more time to join in the celebrations.

You don’t have to make “traditional” holiday food

There’s a pretty standard menu most of us follow during the holidays. It’s a cultural tradition that’s so ingrained in society, you may feel like you have to stick to it whether you really want to or not. But just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.

So be adventurous. Grilled pork chops with a fresh cranberry and orange relish is just as acceptable as a roast turkey filled with stuffing, and a spinach salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta cheese is quite “festive” too.

Remember that things don’t have to be perfect

Holiday_food.pngWe all want a Norman Rockwell Christmas. And we’d all like our food to look like the dishes in food magazines and advertisements. Expecting this, however, just isn’t realistic. It’s ok if things aren’t perfect, and sometimes our mistakes are the things that make the best memories in the long run.

The important thing about food is that it’s enjoyable. If you’re stressing about whether every item is perfect, you’re missing out on half the fun. So relax. Unless you’re a 5-star chef, no one’s judging you.

Cook and eat mindfully

The most important thing you can do to take the stress out of holiday food is to be mindful. Plan meals ahead of time, and keep them simple. Ask yourself how much time you really have, and if your energy would be better spent on other things.

When you eat, don’t put anything off limits. Forbidding yourself certain foods just creates guilt; this not only makes you more likely to overindulge, it also takes the fun out of what should be an enjoyable experience.

So instead of telling yourself “I can’t eat that because it’s not healthy,” go ahead and indulge. Take everything in moderation, eat everything slowly, and savor every single bite. You’ll find that if you cook and eat mindfully, you’ll enjoy the season more and stress a lot less...and you’ll also eat better food.

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