Utilizing Innovation And History Of Giving To Tackle Food Insecurity From Our Backyard To The Globe
October 9, 2019
Believe it or not, millions of Americans lack available financial resources to purchase food for their households. These households experience what is known as “food insecurity,” which according to the USDA, is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life. Around the world, food insecurity is an even bigger issue. With the global population rising, the food industry is looking for every opportunity to tackle this challenge. Sometimes that means innovating across our supply chain to produce more high quality food, but other times it means doing what we can as human beings to help those in our local communities that have fallen on hard times and need help from their neighbors.
OSI’s owners have long been philanthropic supporters, and some of their key causes include agricultural development in East Africa, agricultural education, and child and family charities. This same spirit of giving back extends to the rest of the business and, in 2011, the company established the OSI Group Foundation to support the charitable activities of our key stakeholders. Since its establishment, this foundation has supported a variety of organizations targeting areas related to food research focused education and food related health, as well as other charitable causes.
Over the years, OSI has partnered with area food banks and hunger relief programs as a way to give back to the community and reduce food insecurity. Our employees have been instrumental in identifying opportunities and leading the way in community engagement. Many of these community engagements are done in partnership with some incredible organizations. By partnering with these organizations, we are able to multiply the positive impact we are having on people’s lives.
TACKLING FOOD INSECURITY IN OUR BACKYARD WITH THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS FOOD BANK
While it is sometimes easy to think food insecurity is a foreign challenge that only affects a small number of people in North America, the reality is much different. In Northern Illinois, most families sometimes have to make tough choices about where to spend their money. For instance, do they pay for utilities this month, or skip a month to pay for food?
In the United States, one in six adults and one in five children are not sure where they will find their next meal. We at OSI look up and down our supply chain to see how we can utilize our own expertise and transform excess or unused food in a way that helps feed the hungry in our communities.
Given the size of this challenge, we work with partners to make progress. Founded in 1983, the Northern Illinois Food Bank has been working hard to solve hunger in Northern Illinois for more than three decades. They serve more than half a million people each year through 900 feeding programs in 13 counties, including mobile food pantries and soup kitchens.
OSI has found a tremendous partner in the Northern Illinois Food Bank. We donate excess product to the food bank in bulk and also send teams of employee volunteers to help organize and repackage those (and other) bulk materials into manageable quantities for the distribution centers. This past year we even sponsored their Foodie 5K, with OSI employees running to support their good work.
ALLEVIATING FOOD INSECURITY AT HOME WITH BLESSINGS IN A BACKPACK
Another incredible partner in the fight to tackle food insecurity in our own backyard is Blessings in a Backpack. Blessings in a Backpack is a non-profit organization feeding more than 87,300 children in nearly 1,092 schools in 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, including children in our own neighborhoods.
According to Blessings in a Backpack, 13 million kids in America do not have enough food to eat in a given weekend. One in five kids will eat meals at school, but they usually lack access to affordable, nutritious food on Saturday and Sunday. In April 2019, employees at OSI Group's Global Headquarters organized an event to pack 500 backpacks for children in need
Packing events have provided OSI with an opportunity to provide hunger-free weekends to children facing food insecurity across the United States. During a packing event, OSI sponsors the meals and helps pack at least 500 backpacks filled with nutritious food, so that children right here in our community will not go hungry over the weekend.
TACKLING FOOD INSECURITY IN THE SHORT AND LONG TERM
Food insecurity is a challenge that requires both long- and short-term efforts. OSI is fortunate to have the top talent in the industry working on innovative, long-term solutions to increase the amount of quality food produced to feed a growing population around the world.
In the short term, we are making efforts to tackle food insecurity today, right here in our community. Given our history in philanthropy and the passion we all share for helping those in need, we enjoy partnering with organizations that share our same values. We also enjoy spending time knowing that the work we are doing today will help put food in people’s stomachs tomorrow.
This is why so many of us at OSI work with local food banks. In addition to donating more than 140,000 meals since 2013 to local food banks and people in need, employees from OSI lead volunteer efforts to ensure local communities have access to healthy and affordable food. It is no coincidence that OSI North America has boosted food donations during the same time we focused on decreasing food waste in our facilities. We’ve found that it is key to work together to make sure we are getting food to the people who will enjoy it most.