The FINANCIAL — NORTHFIELD, Ill. – June 13, 2011 – The fruits and vegetables now growing on the campus of Kraft Foods global headquarters near Chicago will soon be breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the hungry in northern Illinois.
Together with the Chicago Botanic Garden, Kraft Foods today unveiled a three-season fruit and vegetable garden, bringing the company's fight against hunger to its own soil. The Kraft Foods Garden will produce an estimated 14,000 pounds of food every year – the equivalent of 28,000 meals.
"As the world's second largest food company, we have a responsibility to fight hunger around the globe – including in our own backyard," said Marc Firestone, brainchild of the project and Kraft Foods' Executive Vice President, Corporate & Legal Affairs and General Counsel. "This garden is another way our employees can volunteer their time to make a delicious difference in our community, while establishing a sustainable method of fighting hunger right here in Illinois."
All of the food harvested from the Kraft Foods Garden will be donated to local agencies, including soup kitchens and food pantries in the networks of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Northern Illinois Food Bank, in addition to Women, Infant and Children (WIC) centers in Cook and Lake Counties.
This morning, executives from Kraft Foods and the Chicago Botanic Garden planted a cherry tree together in the 8,000-square-foot garden, surrounded by the dozens of crops already growing. Crops include organically grown lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, beets, cucumbers and many more varieties of nutritious produce, among the most in-demand items at hunger-relief organizations.
"We are thrilled to partner with Kraft Foods in a program that utilizes our expertise in urban sustainable vegetable gardening," said Sophia Siskel, president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden "This innovative partnership will benefit families in our community who lack access to fresh produce. It's also creating jobs for skilled workers in urban horticulture."
The Kraft Foods Garden has been installed and will be maintained by Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest program with help from Kraft Foods employee volunteers. The Windy City Harvest Program is a nine-month skills-training and job-placement program. Participants are enrolled in City Colleges of Chicago and earn an advanced continuing education certificate in sustainable horticulture and urban agriculture.
Since 2009, Windy City Harvest has partnered with Cook County Boot Camp to provide extended educational, rehabilitation and occupational opportunities for nonviolent offenders reentering society. Cook County Boot Camp graduates, who are working as transitional Chicago Botanic Garden employees, will be part of the Kraft Foods Garden crew. A Windy City Harvest graduate will supervise the entire crew.
In addition, staff from the Windy City Harvest Program will be teaching a series of gardening classes to Kraft Foods employees over the next several months to support engagement in the Kraft Foods Garden and to encourage gardening at home.