December 17, 2010 | By Roger Thurow

Bowling against Hunger

The college football bowl season, which begins this weekend, celebrates food and eating almost as much as it celebrates gridiron excellence.  Just consider how many of this season’s bowls – Bowls!  The very word comes straight from the kitchen — are sponsored by food companies or named after food:

Four are sponsored by restaurants: the Little Caesars, Chick-fil-A and Outback Bowls, and, the newest addition to this category, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl.

Two are sponsored by a popular snack food: the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.  (Also, what’s a Fiesta without food?)

Two are named after foods: the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.

Three are played in foodie-sounding stadiums: the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando hosts the Champs Sports and Capital One Bowls, and the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s pigskin extravaganza is played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.  (A most fortuitous pairing: juice to wash down the beef.)

All this football mania is topped off, of course, by the national tailgating ritual and professional football championship known as the Super Bowl.  That title conjures up images of a really, really big bowl of food, appropriate for a country that has long fancied itself as the world’s breadbasket.

But wait!  This season, at long last, there’s a bowl game sponsored by a food company that will benefit those without enough to eat: the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  It will be played in San Francisco on Jan. 9 and feature Nevada vs Boston College.

“We’re the only game directly connected to a social cause,” says Doug Kelly of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Committee.  (The uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, is connected to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.)

“It was Kraft’s initiative,” says Kelly, who explains that the giant food company took over title sponsorship of what used to be called the Emerald Bowl, which was named for the snack nut brand of the previous sponsor, Diamond Foods.  “Kraft was looking for a forum where they could draw attention to the issue of hunger.”

Raising the clamor on hunger through football; now that’s something to cheer about.  Cutting through the gluttony of the holidays to shout: Remember those who struggle to put food on the table for their family!

“We have one goal: raise awareness and resources to give as many as 20 million meals to Feeding America,” says Stephen Chriss, Kraft’s senior director of corporate scale and marketing partnerships.

The Fight Hunger Bowl culminates a Kraft marketing program called Huddle to Fight Hunger, which began this past fall as the football season kicked off.  It was the company’s largest multi-brand initiative, involving such iconic names as Oreo, Ritz, Planters, Kool-Aid, Maxwell House, Oscar Mayer, Miracle Whip and the ubiquitous Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Consumers of these products didn’t donate money directly, but their actions prompted Kraft to make contributions.  As Chriss explains: “Any coupon redeemed, we donated a meal.  If you went to our website and joined the huddle, or our Facebook page and clicked ‘Like’, we donated a meal.”

As of yesterday, that total was more than 18.9 million meals that will be donated to Feeding America, the nation’s food banking network.  And the aid comes at a critical time, as the economic crisis and high unemployment have created unprecedented demand at the thousands of food banks served by Feeding America.

As you pour over the football statistics in the coming weeks, consider these stats from a national survey reported by Feeding America earlier this year:

Through its network of food banks and the agencies they serve, Feeding America provides emergency food assistance to 37 million people each year, including nearly 14 million children.  That’s a whopping 46% increase over just four years ago.  It means that one in eight Americans receives food assistance from the nation’s charitable food distribution system at some time during the year.  Feeding America distributes more than 3 billion pounds of food and grocery products to 61,000 agencies nationwide every year.

“The numbers are still continuing to rise, the food banks are still struggling,” says Phil Zepeda, Feeding America’s senior vice president of communications.  “The need has never been greater.”

So, as the Fight Hunger Bowl nears, the push toward the 20 million meals goal intensifies.  The Nevada and Boston College fan bases will be engaging in a texting competition that will prompt more Kraft donations.  And the bowl committee in San Francisco is donating three meals for each ticket sold to the city’s leading social service agencies: Glide Memorial Church, St. Anthony’s Dining Room and the San Francisco Food Bank.

“We didn’t just want to be spectators,” says Doug Kelly of the bowl committee.  “We wanted to take an active role in the community.”

You can watch the inaugural Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on ESPN.  And don’t leave the TV at halftime to get something to eat.  For that is when Kraft will present a check to Feeding America so others can eat.

Feeding America calculates that every dollar it receives helps it secure and distribute 7 meals through local food banks.  So the donation of 20 million meals should yield a check of about $3 million.

The money is a valuable contribution.  But for the hungry of America, and for the one billion hungry around the world, the clamor-raising of the Fight Hunger Bowl is priceless.

For as you watch that game or any of the games this holiday season, remember this: Far too many bowls remain empty.


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1,000 Days and Migrant Stress

The first 1,000 days of a child's life is a critical time for development, where nutrition--and stability--lay the foundation for a lifetime. 

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Outrage and Inspire with Roger Thurow - Am I About to Lose My Second Child, Too?

The latest podcast in our ongoing series with Roger Thurow. Hear how even the best nutrition projects can be undermined by bad water, poor sanitation and hygiene, and lousy infrastructure.  From northern Uganda, we hear a mother’s agony when her healthy, robust child suddenly falls ill after a few sips of water…unclean water, it turned out.

Roger Thurow on SDG 2.2

Roger Thurow sat down with Farming First to talk about the individual and societal consequences of malnutrition. 




Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

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» Order your copy of the book.


The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

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The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

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Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

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