Top Box Foods was originally founded with the mission of providing high quality, low-cost food to needy families in Chicago and eventually around the country. Chris Kennedy, founder of Top Box, and son to the late senator Robert F. Kennedy had a passion for fighting hunger, and has helped spread Top Box to New Orleans and other cities across the United States. One of the primary aspects of Top Box is that it does not function as a charity, but rather as a non-profit organization that provides “a way to obtain discounted groceries for families that live in areas that either lack grocery stores, or have an abundance of fast food”(Jodi S. Cohen).
Kennedy’s initial investment of $150,000 was necessary to get Top Box off and running, and from there it’s supposed to be self-sustaining. Our customers payments help cover the cost of the food and delivery. This also includes a 5% donation back to the Host Site from which people pick up their food from, normally a church or community center. “Top box estimates the boxes cost about half of what they would at a retail store, taking into account that some customers buy groceries at a chain grocery store while other go to a corner market, and pricing depends on brand and quality. The Tribune priced the $36 “Family Top Box” at about $55 at one chain grocery store” (Jodi S. Cohen). The New Orleans branch was launched in the Summer of 2013, and is continuing to expand and reach out to more people in “food desserts”.
I originally heard about Top Box through a friend that had interned for them throughout the summer. I thought it would be great opportunity to join such a selfless organization and I decided to work for Top box to satisfy my public service requirement. Ever since I arrived at Tulane, I have often felt a large disconnect with the city of New Orleans. I have felt overwhelmed by a sense of a Tulane bubble that has largely kept many of the real world issues that the people of New Orleans experience on a daily basis. Since I’ve started working for top box, I have truly felt that gap has been filled. Every week, I hop on the New Orleans public bus and head downtown to our local office. Most of the people I see on the bus are people that are struggling just to get by, people that are very likely to be Top Box customers. I feel that I have gained a new perspective on the city as a whole working for this organization. On my first delivery day, I went around from Church to Church selling these food boxes to extremely needy and very appreciative people. I feel that I have finally gained an understanding for the everyday struggles that countless people experience on a daily basis.
The New Orleans Branch services multiple communities within the Tulane area. We served the surrounding community over 300 boxes in our last delivery, mostly through small Churches within a 25-minute radius. The majority of Top box customers live in “food desserts” which are areas that lack affordable and healthy food options. So far, working for Top Box has been a tremendously rewarding experience. I have never been a part of something so selfless that affects so many people’s lives. The impact that top box has had on the community is truly outstanding. That much was clear after I went on my first delivery in September. Being able to see our customer’s faces, and understand how appreciative they were for the work we were doing has made every other benefit a mere afterthought. Most of these people are struggling on a daily basis and providing them with affordable food will truly have massive ramifications in their lives. When people save money on groceries, they have more money to spend on other life necessities, and it will not only help spur individual families, but entire communities as well.
Throughout my time with Top box, I have gained more and more responsibilities as I have gained experience. My first two weeks at Top Box were spent mainly folding order forms. My boss tried to amp up its importance by telling me “Everyone has to fold paper. I love folding paper, its one of the most relaxing things I do”. As I continued to work with Top Box, I have been given multiple different duties, and have even been promoted to Director of Administration. I currently handle Top Box’s accounting for the New Orleans branch, and am in the process of converting its old accounting system to QuickBooks. QuickBooks is an online system of bookkeeping that is very beneficial for small businesses. Some of my other duties include entering customer order information, ensuring that our inventory is accounted for, working on general ledgers, accounting for cash inflows, and both depositing and writing checks. In addition to this, I also partake in a weekly employee meeting, in which our President outlines our weekly goals and strategies. There are seven members on the board, all with distinct designated responsibilities. We normally have an agenda where we address any and all issues that have arisen during that week. These meetings have been instrumental in the success of Top Box and have greatly contributed to the organizations efficiency and functionality.
My academic knowledge has been instrumental in my ability to work effectively at Top Box. My accounting classes as well as my INFO3010 class have provided me with the skills I need to be able to work in my current position. Most of the top Box documents that contain customer information run through Microsoft Excel and without taking INFO3010, I could not possibly have been successful working in my current role. In addition to that, my knowledge of accounting has proven essential in being able to handle the incoming cash flows during our monthly deliveries. In fact, this experience has been my first real world experience in the accounting field, and I believe it will prove extremely beneficial having this experience when I start working in the Accounting Industry. Overall, this internship is just what I needed in order to move forward in terms of advancing my career in accounting field.
While Top Box has been instrumental in giving me real world experience, I feel that my internship has been great in providing a public service towards the people of New Orleans. All of the people that work for the New Orleans branch are volunteers, some working for the center for public service and some not. All of us feel that it is vital to the Top Box mission to provide this service to the surrounding communities. Being able to staff Top Box with students that are volunteering for free has allowed for Top Box to lower its prices enough that customers can greatly benefit. When you look at it holistically, we work for this organization for free, so that it can afford to operate and charge the lowest prices possible, so that we can offer food to the maximum amount of people possible. When more and more people can buy food through this program, they will have more money to spend on other things. This will help improve people’s overall quality of life one step at a time. Eventually we believe that it will begin to make an impact on entire communities when people can afford to spend more. As a result, Top Box is truly providing an essential public service for the people of New Orleans.