At BEMA’s convention, CLIF Bar & Company donated five trees for every person who ­attended a presentation.
Years ago when my father passed away, my boss called to see what my team could do to help my family and me. I simply replied, “Just remind everyone that food is love.” And the comfort flowed in.

Part of my affinity for the baking industry is that it operates on this very principle. The products bakers make are gifts that come from a place of love and pride. Although every company is a business and exists to make a profit, bakers are also here to give — nourishment, indulgence and, yes, comfort.

I thought of that as I listened to Arnold Schwarzenegger deliver his keynote address to the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA)’s Dairy-Deli-Bake ­attendees in Anaheim, CA last month. “Don’t ever call me a self-made man,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a self-made man. We all get a lot of help from a lot of people. When you recognize that, you can also recognize your responsibility to give something back.”

There is perhaps no industry that illustrates this better than baking. Just look at IDDBA: Former Gov. Schwarzenegger praised the association for donating all the tradeshow’s unused food products to support California food banks, something the exhibitors do every year at the end of the show.

Philanthropy is also a theme that permeated BEMA’s recently held annual convention, which I attended in Laguna Nigel, CA. The association kicked off its 100th year by giving back to — and through— the industry it has served for a century, first by going “reverse black tie” for the Chairman’s Dinner on the convention’s closing night. Anyone who donated $20 per person or $50 per family had the opportunity to dress down for this otherwise formal affair.

All donations went to CROP Hunger Walk, which supports grassroots hunger abatement efforts across the US and around the world. It’s a cause near to the heart of Baking & Snack Publisher Paul Lattan, who has done this 50-mile “rim-to-rim-to-rim” ultra-hike across the Grand Canyon and back, for the past three years, bringing a few baking industry associates with him each year, and again this October. You can learn more about the walk and how to donate

This industry also focuses on feeding the earth as much as its people. At BEMA’s convention, CLIF Bar & Company donated five trees for every person who ­attended a presentation by Rich Berger, vice-president of engineering, food supply, about the benefits of unconventional bakery operations and “thinking like a tree.”

Looking through the lens of food production reveals countless ways to make a difference in this world. How will your business, your association — you — give back or pay forward? As Gov. Schwarzenegger said in his keynote, “We are not judged in the end by how much we made, but by how much we have given.”