Having worked proudly for Kraft Foods for 13 years, I have developed a sincere interest in what Americans are serving on their dinner tables. Unfortunately, many families are not able to put enough food on the table due to economic hardship. For many, the basic necessities of shelter and heat take precedence over food. Approximately 36 million men, women and children in America — or about one in eight — do not get enough food. And the food they have access to, is often nutritionally inadequate, which leads to diet-related diseases.
Hunger in America is often hidden from public view and impacts a broader spectrum of people than most people realize. The face of hunger is surprising and often closer than you think. You do not need to be homeless to be hungry. In fact, many working families do not have enough quality food to eat. I look to my own childhood, growing up in a single-parent household, as an example. There were times when money was tight and a five-pound bag of potatoes and package of hot dogs would have to sustain us through the week.
Even with that first-hand experience, I was taken back last year while working at one of Kraft Foods’ mobile pantries, which brings food assistance to communities that do not have easy access to hunger-relief services. The mobile pantry was scheduled to open in a neighborhood on Chicago’s west side at 9 a.m. I arrived at 8 a.m. to help set up, expecting to be one of the first people there. I was shocked to see families — approximately 200 people — already lined up around the block. Some said they had been there since 6 AM.
Like our fellow Americans, Kraft Foods employees want to do even more in this challenging economic climate. This is why I am extremely proud to have participated in Kraft Foods’ “Make a Delicious Difference Week,” which took place October 5 through 10. During this first global week of service, 10,000 Kraft Foods employees in more than 32 countries gave their time to help fight hunger, support healthy lifestyles, and build stronger communities around the world. It was the largest volunteer initiative ever in Kraft Foods’ history.
Groups of our employees partnered with local organizations to determine the best ways to bring nutritious meals to individuals and families. In Fresno, California, employees assisted at the Community Food Bank packing food for distribution. In the Washington area, the D.C. Central Kitchen received a helping hand serving meals. Other communities included Chicago, Miami, New York, San Antonio, Toledo Ohio, Kirksville Montana, Livermore California and dozens more.
We are taking this American concept of volunteering and the spirit of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act across our U.S. borders to cities like Sao Paulo, Moscow and Shanghai. This is a wonderful way to raise awareness of the need for food assistance and to further foster a spirit of service and giving among our employees. With this ongoing effort, we will fight hunger in America one meal at a time and build stronger communities across the globe.
I invite you to consider how you can make a difference in the lives of every American through volunteerism. The chance and benevolence of our circumstances honors us with a unique opportunity to connect and inspire through giving back. In the words of Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Donating time nurtures the volunteer as much as it helps a struggling neighbor. And nothing we do can be more satisfying.