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Renee Bartlett, community involvement ambassoador Kraft Foods
Renee Bartlett, community involvement ambassoador Kraft Foods

Philanthropic Business of the Year Finalist: Kraft Foods Inc.

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Illinois-based Kraft Foods Inc. is a household name for its products such as macaroni and cheese, cheese singles and salad dressings.

Perhaps less well-known, however, are its efforts to instill corporate values of giving back in each of the communities where the company works, including Springfield, where Kraft has a manufacturing operation at 2035 E. Bennett St.

“It’s something we’ve always done,” says Renee Bartlett, community involvement ambassador for Kraft’s Springfield plant. “Corporate is working really hard with us at the local level to try to expand
our volunteer base into the community.”

Kraft Foods Inc. and the Kraft Cares Foundation, a corporate grant program that focuses on hunger relief and healthy living, donate more than $100 million annually to philanthropic organizations.

Rachel Larsen, manager for community involvement for Kraft Foods, North America, says via e-mail that Kraft decides how much each community gets from Kraft Cares with help from a group of employees that meets monthly to read requests and examine prospects for volunteering.

In 2008, Kraft Cares distributed more than $100,000 locally through Kraft Cares, and in 2009, the foundation sent between $30,000 and $50,000 to the Ozarks.

Beyond the foundation, Kraft employees can participate in several programs to help those in need. Kraft Matching Gifts, for example, makes a dollar-for-dollar match to any charitable organization of at least $25 made by an employee to a 501(c)3, Bartlett says.

“A lot of people use that especially for yearly gifts that they make,” she adds.
Kraft also participates in annual United Way campaigns, with more than half of employees opting for payroll deductions.

“They can opt to have a portion of their pay taken out of their payroll that will go straight to United Way,” Bartlett says. Larson notes that in 2009, local Kraft employees contributed more than $90,000 to United Way.

And during the 2009 Make A Delicious Difference Week, more than 100 local employees donated 1,000 hours to help with local projects at organizations such as Regional Girls Shelter, Boys & Girls Town and Ozarks Food Harvest, Bartlett says, adding that Ozarks Food Harvest received a $15,000 grant through Kraft Cares last year as well as a bonus grant of $5,000 for being a Make A Delicious difference Week partner.

“We are moving forward with trying to put a focus on getting people to not just give monetarily, but to give up their time,” she adds.

Lindsey Neddenriep, public relations coordinator for Ozarks Food Harvest, says Kraft plays a big role in the organization’s efforts to feed the hungry, supporting endeavors such as the Weekend Backpack Program, which supports area children.

“A lot of times the only food they are actually getting is during the week at school,” Neddenriep says. “Our program gives these kids a backpack that looks like everyone else’s full of food that they actually take and can make the food on their own over the weekend.”

She says Kraft has donated 338,330 pounds of food worth about $651,972  from 2009 to date this year. The company also helped the nonprofit by picking up and delivering more than 400,000 pounds of food donated by Associated Wholesale Grocers since January.

“I don’t know what we would do without corporations like Kraft,” Neddenriep says. “There are a few others that give as much time and donations as Kraft, but they are really one of our largest contributors.”[[In-content Ad]]

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