By Tom Hayes, President, Tyson Foods, Inc.
Shari Runner, President & CEO, Chicago Urban League
As the great Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” This holiday season gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on those in need across our city and nation at the time of the year when we give thanks for what we have. The Chicago Urban League and Tyson Foods are grateful for the spirit of collaboration to address food insecurity by lending our support to families in the greater Chicago area.
In July, the Chicago Urban League made an announcement as part of the organization’s 100th anniversary commemoration for a call to action for individuals to devote 100,000 hours to volunteerism over the next 12 months. The Chicago Urban League will use its centennial not only to volunteer, but to engage with clients, community members, business leaders and academia on the issues that face African-Americans in Chicago and beyond.
At the same time as the Chicago Urban League’s centennial announcement, a city-wide hunger partnership with Tyson Foods was coming to fruition. The company has partnered with National Urban League affiliates around the country on hunger relief and awareness, but never in Chicago. Tyson Foods has been active in hunger relief for many years, donating more than 100 million pounds of protein to food banks and other relief agencies since 2000. And, in 2015, Tyson Foods announced its renewed commitment to hunger relief by pledging $50 million in cash and in-kind donations over the next five years to the fight against hunger, with a special focus on innovative initiatives at the local level.
This commitment made partnering with Tyson Foods in Chicago a great fit. Together, our organizations in August announced KNOW Hunger Chicago, a one-year campaign that aims to raise awareness about food insecurity and nutrition in Chicago through large scale protein donations, through leadership exercises, community engagement events and hunger education opportunities.
Chicago was chosen as the next KNOW Hunger city because of a growing need in various communities. Chicago has a high concentration of food insecurity. One in six of our neighbors – around 812,000 – turn to the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s network for assistance each year. We also understand that hunger disproportionately affects African-American households across the country at a higher rate of one in four households with children.
This, of course, raises a great point. Organizations like Chicago Urban League need companies like Tyson Foods, and, vice versa. Yes, there are lots of people interested in volunteering on their own time. And, yes, there are also people and organizations out there contributing out of their own pockets. But, when it comes to the work of making meaningful change for our communities, it truly does take a village.
With winter and winter holidays among us, it’s hard not to think about the challenges that too many members of our community will face. We want to inspire each person to join us with your gift of volunteerism to make a difference this season and into the next year. Take the pledge today at www.cul100.org/pledge. Whether its 10 hours stocking your church’s pantry, 100 hours chaperoning your child’s school activities or 1,000 hours with your family or friends serving meals at a homeless shelter – you choose when, where and bring someone along. Let us think about who is doing it right, and who is leaving one catcher’s mitt off so we can play a fair game of ball by giving more families the best chance at having a better season than the last.