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Boxes of charity: General Mills donates 49M bowls of cereal to feed hungry

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

COVINGTON -- More than 49 million Americans struggled to get enough to eat at some point last year, the highest total in 14 years.

General Mills is doing its part to change that statistic. At a press conference held Friday at the company's Covington plant, General Mills pledged to donate 49 million bowls of whole grain cereal -- or 4.4 million boxes -- to food banks nationwide. That's a lot of Cheerios -- $10 million worth.

General Mills is joining forces with Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity, and NBC's reality series, "The Biggest Loser," in a campaign called Wake Up to Hunger, designed to generate awareness and help solve America's hunger problem.

New data from the U.S. government shows that one in six Americans went hungry at some point last year.

Knowing that so many Americans are going to bed hungry prompted General Mills, a partner with Feeding America for 30 years, to increase its commitment toward helping those in need.

"Hunger relief is a huge priority for this company. As a food manufacturer our mission is to nourish lives," said General Mills CEO Ken Powell.

Now through May 31, General Mills will make and distribute 4.4 million boxes of cereal to food banks throughout the nation, including the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which serves 38 Georgia counties, including Newton. Some of the cereal will be distributed to the Newton County Community Food Pantry, according to Atlanta Community Food Bank Executive Director Bill Bolling.

Bolling noted that Georgia has been especially hard hit during the economic crises, with the unemployment rate rising to an all-time high. He said the demand at the Atlanta food bank has increased by 38 percent since last year.

"We're going to help our neighbors, and we're going to do it by being creative," Bolling said.

More than 10,000 boxes of cereal were to be delivered Friday to the Atlanta Community Food Bank to kickoff the campaign.

Trainer Bob Harper of NBC's reality series "The Biggest Loser" was also on hand to encourage participation in the Pound for Pound Challenge, a charitable campaign sponsored by General Mills. For every pound participants pledge to lose, General Mills will donate 14 cents to Feeding America -- enough to provide 1 pound of groceries to a local food bank.

The campaign starts Tuesday after the season finale of "The Biggest Loser."

"We helped Feeding America deliver more than 3.5 million pounds of groceries to local food banks through the Pound for Pound Challenge last year and are thrilled to give Americans yet another chance to help themselves while helping others," Harper said.

The Covington plant is one of eight that will be participating in the Wake Up to Hunger campaign, according to John Church, senior vice president of supply chain for General Mills. Church said the Covington plant is the largest cereal producer in North America.

Powell, the company CEO, told employees they can take pride in knowing they are making a difference in people's lives.

"Think about that today as you go about your work ... the help you're giving to people who need it," he said.

Wake Up to Hunger campaign kickoffs were taking place at General Mills plants in Cincinnati, Ohio and Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday as well.

For more information about Wake Up to Hunger and the Pound for Pound Challenge, visit www.PFPChallenge.com/WakeUpToHunger.