The Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) announced that Hunger Is, their joint charitable initiative to fight childhood hunger in America, awarded over $4 million in grants to 79 local charities to feed hungry children living in neighborhoods throughout the country.

“I am overjoyed to see how Hunger Is has been able to impact the issue on a local level by awarding over $4 million in grants. I’m honored to continue to help bring attention and increase awareness to childhood hunger in America,” stated Emmy Award-winning actress and Hunger Is ambassador Viola Davis. “I was one of the millions of children that go hungry every day. I promise to continue to tell my story until we have ended childhood hunger in the U.S.”

Hunger Is invited qualified organizations to respond with approaches to increase access to free and reduced-cost school breakfast, to improve the nutritional quality of breakfast programs, and to expand weekend, summer and vacation feeding programs.

Currently only half of the 22 million children in the U.S. eligible for free or reduced-cost breakfast receive this most important meal of the day. Students qualifying for free or reduced-cost school lunch are automatically eligible for breakfast. However, not all schools participate, and some schools provide the breakfast program before school hours, making participation difficult for students who cannot arrive at school early (compared to in-classroom breakfast programs). The following are examples of the grants helped increase access to healthy food for thousands of children.

• A grant to a Virginia nonprofit helped the organization outreach to schools that were eligible for 100 percent of the students to receive free breakfasts through the national Community Eligibility Provision, part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. As a result of the organization’s many workshops, community and school meetings and promotional materials, an additional 10,000 low-income Virginia students receive a free, nutritious breakfast during school.
• Similarly, a Hunger Is grant helped increase Community Eligibility Provision awareness and participation in Maryland. The funds were used to provide school-by-school outreach, purchase food carts and refrigerators to expand breakfast service and publicize the availability of free school breakfasts by designating a specific month as School Breakfast Month. The funds were also used for “School Breakfast Challenge” grants and incentives for schools to participate in the breakfast program.
• In California, Hunger Is funds were used to make cafeteria dining cool again. The San Francisco Unified School District received a grant to transform outdated, crowded and underutilized dining spaces at four middle schools into inviting, health-promoting, culturally relevant community spaces. Features of the new dining areas that the grant supported included enhanced meal serving lines to make food more attractive and convenient to obtain, new furniture including round tables and couches to promote socializing and community building, interactive and engaging wall graphics and an educational “learning layer” through student workshops.
• Funds granted to a Colorado organization helped the nonprofit teach hundreds of families, Headstart workers and preschool workers how to cook healthy breakfasts while staying within a budget. The program included a six-week cooking course for parents and childcare professionals, a supermarket tour and a “train-the-trainer” model to expand the program to other areas.

The first Hunger Is fall season fundraiser took place in September in the Albertsons Companies stores throughout the U.S. and raised more than $2.5 million. The fundraiser generated donations through customer purchase of participating products in more than 2,200 stores across 33 states, as well as customer donations at the check stand. To date, Hunger Is has raised $12.5 million and awarded over 230 grants. The grantees can be found at hungeris.org/grantawards.

Regional charities located in areas where Albertsons Companies operate were invited to respond to Requests for Proposals. District Managers participated in the selection of local food or hunger-based organizations serving their immediate community. Some local organizations received multiple nominations by these Albertsons Companies Store Directors.

“We are excited and humbled to see how the funds raised in our stores have impacted children and schools throughout the country,” said Christy Duncan Anderson, Executive Director of the Albertsons Companies Foundation. “Thanks to the generosity of our customers and the dedication of our store teams, more children will start their school day ready to learn and succeed.”

The Hunger Is program is guided by the Hunger Is Advisory Committee (HIAC) comprised of CEO’s from the leading hunger advocacy organizations in the U.S. including Drexel University, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Feeding America, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Food Research and Action Center, Growing Power Inc., New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign, and WhyHunger. The HIAC provides guidance in defining and addressing needs and makes funding recommendations for approval by the Albertsons Companies Foundation and EIF Board of Directors. Many of the local charities receiving the Hunger Is grants are affiliated with these advocacy organizations.

“We are pleased that the Hunger Is initiative is able to step in and support an evident and urgent need across the country,” stated EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen. “Working with our valued partner, the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the members of the Hunger Is Advisory Committee, we are collaborating to fill a critical gap in the health and welfare of America’s children – our future.”

More information about the issue is available at HungerIs.org, along with simple ways for individuals to donate.

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