The Western States Chain Grocers Association (WSCGA) was founded in 1921 by a group of Los Angeles grocers. In those early years, it was acknowledged that successful food industry companies would need people with higher levels of education to compete effectively. The National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) had established a curriculum in Food Distribution at Michigan State University in 1950 but the expense and distance involved was a barrier for West Coast companies. In 1956, WSCGA established a task force to pursue establishing a Food Distribution Program with a West Coast university. Seventeen universities were considered. The final decision favored the University of Southern California because of its metropolitan location, the reputation of its business school as part of a major private university, access to extensive business facilities and local industry interest.
During the 1958 WSCGA Convention, the announcement was made that the USC “Food Distribution Program” would be offered in the fall of 1959. This move marked the beginning of an evolution for the organizations laser focus on creating and supporting continuing educational programs in the Western United States for the grocery industry. Also in 1959, the WSCGA changed its name to the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC).
Today, the WAFC remains committed to advancing the food industry through education and leadership. The core educational programs supported by the WAFC are the USC Food Industry Management Program, the USC Food Industry Management Executive Program and the community college Retail Management Certificate Program.
The USC Food Industry Management (FIM) program focuses on developing high potential employees from retailers, wholesalers, consumer packaged goods companies and third party suppliers. Originally a two semester program, today’s 16-week curriculum focuses on integrating the functional areas of the food industry with cutting-edge theory and practical applications needed in today’s dynamic business environment. To participate in the FIM program, students must be selected by their company and accepted by the University of Southern California for program participation. Since its founding, the WAFC, with the generous donations of food industry companies and individuals, has supported the USC Food Industry Management Program with scholarships in excess of $20 million.
In addition to the USC FIM program, the WAFC assists USC in the marketing of the USC Food Industry Management Executive Program (FIEP). Launched in 1974, this program was created for food industry executives and was originally twelve (12) Thursday night sessions held on the USC campus. Today this four day emersion in food industry concepts is offered in March and September at USC. Since 2012, the FIEP has also been offered in additional major cities in the U.S. (2012 Dallas, 2013 Chicago, 2015 Dallas).
The most recent addition to the suite of educational initiatives endorsed by the WAFC, is the “Retail Management Certificate Program” (RMCP). Introduced in partnership with Cerritos Community College in the year 2000, the RMCP is an accredited community college program available online nationally and at over 160 college campus and satellite locations in the Western United States. The RMCP curriculum has been designed to meet the evolving needs of the retail food industry and focuses on the following areas: human relations/organizational behavior, technology, business communications, management principles, marketing, human resources management, financial management and budgeting, and retail management. Since inception, over 20,000 RMCP classes have been taken and 902 students have graduated.
As a non-profit 501c3 organization, the WAFC is able to provide funds to support scholarships to the USC FIMP, RMCP tuition reimbursement to WAFC companies, honorariums for RMCP graduates and scholarships to other food industry programs. This financial support is made possible by the WAFC Scholarship donor companies and individual donors. All funds are managed.