Based out of San Luis Obispo, California Food Trading, Inc. has over 35 years of experience selling beans, rice and other commodity food items. The SLO Food Bank works with their team to order bulk food items like oats, rice, beans, and canned items. During the COVID-19 health crisis that is also impacting the availability of food items on the market, the company has made it its mission to prioritize orders from food banks. During our most recent order that has been placed with the help of County funds, the team at California Trading has been extremely helpful and accommodating.
We spoke with president and owner Kevin Magon about his personal connection to SLO County and the SLO Food Bank, as well as his company’s role in addressing the increasing hunger crisis in our community.
Hey Kevin, it’s nice to meet you! Thank you so much for supporting our mission to feed hungry people in our community! Can you explain a little more what your company does and what your responsibility is?
It’s nice to meet you too! I’ve lived in SLO for the past 20 years, and love everything about this community. I met my wife at Cal Poly, and we have two beautiful daughters that we raise in San Luis Obispo.
My In-laws moved up to the Central Coast over a decade ago, and I started working with my father-in-law (Ed Kurtz) in his food brokerage business in January 2009.
I started California Food Trading with Ed in 2010 with the hope that we could use our food industry experience to find ways to save Food Banks money across the state and ultimately feed more people.
What do you think is the most important aspect of the work the SLO Food Bank does and where do you see the California Food Trading, Inc. making the biggest impact?
There are lots of people in our community that don’t know where there next meal will come from. In California, 1 in 9 people struggle with hunger, and for children it is 1 in 6. Those are staggering numbers!
SLO Food Bank has been a reliable source of stability in our community since 1988, and we feel honored to be able to help in a small way.
What role does the California Food Trading, Inc. play in regards to food insecurity in SLO county? How has this changed during the COVID-19 health crisis?
Unfortunately food insecurity affects 46,000 people in our county on a regular basis. With unemployment rates in California increasing dramatically due to COVID-19, there are more and more people that will rely on the food banks for their next meal.
California Food Trading works with many different types of customers, but we have worked with our suppliers to prioritize food banks during this pandemic.
So while our goal is to help as many people as we can, we have taken extra steps to make sure food banks get the food they need before others.
Our Director of Programs Andrea Keisler said you are personally connected to the SLO Food Bank. Can you elaborate a little more on that?
My father-in-law (Ed Kurtz) served on the board of directors for the SLO Food Bank from about 2008 – 2013. (He was the chairman for the last 2 years.) Around 2010, Ed was at a meeting speaking to some of the California Food Banks. He mentioned that he had been in the food industry for close to 30 years at the time, and was giving them advice on ways to buy smarter to save money.
Many of the food banks were buying independently from one another, and not sharing information and resources. He encouraged the food banks to work together so they had buying power and could cut down on unnecessary costs. For example, two smaller food banks would each buy a half truckload of food independently. They would then pay higher costs for the food, and higher rates on the trucking. By working together and consolidating orders into full truckload quantities, the food banks would each get what they needed, while also reducing costs. This allowed food banks to stretch their dollars further and feed more people.
So the food banks said, “That’s great! How can we buy from you?” Ed said, “I’m not here to sell you anything, I’m just offering some advice on how to improve the buying process.” The Food Banks said, “Well… Ok great, but can we still buy from you???” Haha!
So we started California Food Trading to help out feeding agencies across the state. For example, we encouraged the Northern California Food Banks to come together when purchasing items like rice and beans. The smaller food banks were able to use the buying power of the larger food banks to dramatically improve their pricing. Word spread to others across the West Coast, and the business continued to grow from there.
If someone was to ask you today what inspires you to do what you do, what would you say?
Definitely my family. During these difficult times for all of us, it is easy to get caught up in what is wrong in our lives and the world. However, being forced to stay home and slow down helps you take a step back from the craziness of life, and appreciate the things that matter most.
I am so grateful for my family, and they inspire me to be the best version of myself each day.
Last but not least, where do you see the relationship between the California Food Trading, Inc. and the SLO Food Bank headed in the future?
California Food Trading and the SLO Food Bank share the same goals of providing nutritious food to the people that need it most, while continuing to improve our community. We hope that we can continue to support the SLO Food Bank now and in the future.
This was a wonderful story, Kevin. Thank you for sharing it with us and thank you so much for your service to our community! You are truly making an impact during these challenging times!