Looking to make a difference in their communities, 30,000 Kraft Foods employees in 60 countries are volunteering for 700 projects this week as part of the company's third annual Delicious Difference Week. They are helping fight hunger and promote health and nutrition.
Kraft Foods Chairman-CEO Irene Rosenfeld and employee volunteer Ivan Espinoza serve as guest gym teachers for students at Chicago's Namaste Charter School (left), while 100 employee volunteers pack food for the hungry at the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of Delicious Difference Week.
"Delicious Difference Week is phenomenal," says Nicole Robinson, VP, Kraft Foods Foundation, and senior director-corporate communication involvement, Kraft Foods. "This is our third annual event. … Employees in different countries -- from Australia to Brazil … the Philippines, Indonesia, different places in the Europe -- come together for one week to volunteer. As a food company, we have a singular focus on fighting hunger and obesity, helping families fight hunger and helping kids get active."
During this week, Kraft Foods employees are working with global and local nonprofits, including Feeding America, Helen Keller International, KaBOOM!, Save the Children and INMED Partnerships for Children. They're volunteering at local food banks, cleaning up parks, planting gardens and holding recreational activities for children to encourage fun physical activity and share nutritional information with them.
Robinson says the week launches a year of volunteering for the company. Kraft Foods predicts its employees will put in more than 200,000 volunteer hours this year, up from almost 155,000 hours last year. For employees who want to donate money, the company is double-matching employees' charitable donations up to $500,000 this week.
"This is a kickoff to what we do throughout the year," Robinson says. "We have the big-scale partners and the local partners -- that 's really what makes it work. Our partnership is a year long not a week long. We view this week as renewing our commitment to what we do as a company and what our employees do throughout the year."
The company also gave out its first Delicious Difference Awards, honoring employees Carlos Fonseca from Venezuela, Marion Gathoga from Kenya, Maria de Jesus Rocha from Mexico, Lizzie Lee from the U.K. and Michelle Voss from the U.S. for their year-round commitment to volunteerism. Kraft Foods Foundation will give a $10,000 grant to each of the five winners' nonprofit partners.
"To me, the employee is the star," Robinson says, explaining that the company's volunteer efforts are employee-driven. "The individuals who received the award are passionate. They have huge hearts."
Kraft Foods also invites its partners to get actively involved in Delicious Difference Week. For example, volunteers this week are building a park in Bentonville, Ark., and asked Kraft Foods partner Walmart to work along with them.
The third driving force for volunteerism is Kraft Foods leadership, with 90% of senior executives involved in Delicious Difference Week -- starting at the top. Chairman-CEO Irene Rosenfeld spent Oct. 3 volunteering at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and working directly with kids at an obstacle course that volunteers set up as a recreational event.
"[Volunteering] is part of the cultural fabric around here," Robinson says. "It really always has been, but we didn't talk about it historically. But now more than ever we view it as a responsibility to talk about it, to be an advocacy [champion]. That's another big goal of this effort: to inspire others to get involved."