Apr 17, 2014 • By

A lesson in how to Outnumber Hunger

I will admit, when I first signed on to volunteer at a food bank for at-risk kids it was for somewhat selfish reasons.

The year was 1988 and I had just moved from Texas to Minneapolis and wanted to meet new people in my new hometown. I chose the organization that was closest to where I lived – a soup kitchen that served meals to homeless kids.

Plus, it was easy. All I had to do was bring with me a box of Hamburger Helper and a few pounds of ground beef.

Every Monday night, I showed up at the nearby Episcopal Church. The kids that needed the most help were easy to spot. One really caught my eye. He was about 16 years old and very standoffish. Angry. Remote. Dirty. Probably on drugs. A total wreck.

I tried many times to engage him but to no avail. When I tried to connect with him, he made me feel like a fool for trying. He had one message for the world: stay away!

One day, I got him to laugh.

Maybe it was a joke about Hamburger Helper? But I had finally made a connection.

I started to learn more about him. His parents were hippies and vagabonds. He came to Minnesota because his grandparents lived here but wanted nothing to do him. He spent his days roaming around town; he spent every night at Uptown Theater where the projectionist would keep the theater doors unlocked so the homeless could get out of the cold.

I wondered: what can I do to help him?

I spoke to some friends who owned a breakfast restaurant. Could you find him a job? They were split: one said yes, of course. The other no, ‘We are a business, not a social service organization.’

Ultimately, they agreed to give Aaron a job. He worked at that restaurant for a few years and he did great.

The common denominator between how we helped him and he helped himself was food.

Which brings me back to the company that brought me to Minneapolis in the first place.

General Mills has a strong culture of volunteering – 85% of our employees do so. Of course, General Mills is a food company, so we understand that our larger purpose is about Nourishing Lives.

The issue of hunger is a place we could obviously make a difference.

One in every six Americans is battling hunger. And that includes 13 million families.

It’s a reality for many children and their families all year round – but it becomes all the more imperative at the end of every spring. When schools are out for summer, the breakfast and lunch that these kids get at school goes away. That’s two meals a day that need to be found elsewhere – so food banks gear up to serve that need until school resumes in the fall.

That’s what inspired Outnumber Hunger, our latest partnership with Feeding America and Big Machine Label Group that goes into high gear each spring.

In the past three years, Outnumber Hunger has helped Feeding America secure over 25 million meals. The only way to take on hunger is to outnumber it with other people – and with companies who care.

That’s why we are so excited that Gannett will be helping to mobilize hundreds of communities nationwide around this project – and giving all Americans the ability to take a first step to help nourish their neighbors who would otherwise go hungry.

In partnership with Gannett, Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m. Central, you’ll be able to watch highlights from the recent Outnumber Hunger concert in Las Vegas, which featured some great country music performances, on television and online.

Outnumber Hunger

Florida Georgia Line, at the Outnumber Hunger concert on April 4.

You can find out how and where you can watch the concert, here on USATODAY.com (the concert replay also will be streamed on USATODAY.com).

For more information about Outnumber Hunger and you can can help the campaign, please visit OutnumberHunger.com.

Editor’s note: The replay of the concert was posted to YouTube on April 22.