Profile

Kraft Foods, Inc.

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 11, No 2 (Fall 2000)

Ed Jones

Most of us initially became acquainted with Kraft Foods as we consumed some of their products at an early age. My grandmother introduced me to the macaroni and cheese. Nowadays, I go for the Toblerone chocolate...frequently. Meanwhile, as the products filled our refrigerators and pantry shelves, the company thrived and so did the company's giving efforts, which date back to 1937.

From the beginning, Kraft's philanthropy has been related to hunger, which remains primary among its three main focus areas, the other two being domestic violence and arts in education/access to the arts. Currently, for example, Kraft seeks to support the hunger relief network by building the capacity of the transportation and redistribution mechanisms of America's Second Harvest and its member food banks nationwide.

As part of the family of Philip Morris Companies, Kraft donates approximately $13 million in cash — and far more in products — to charitable activities each year. Kraft's contributions office is located in Chicago and has a staff of six, headed by Amina Dickerson, director of corporate contributions. Staff positions include an administrator of the employee-directed contributions program, and other specialists whose work involves national coordinating giving programs with nonprofits nationwide or with field locations and business units. All grantmaking is coordinated through the Chicago office, as part of the company's corporate affairs group. Meanwhile, field offices in Madison, Wisconsin, Westchester County, New York, and throughout Kraft's more than sixty plant locations, form committees of Kraft employees that review proposals from regional and local nonprofit organizations. Chicago provides final approval for these grants, offers the committees guidance on site visits and evaluation, and encourages local staff to participate in check presentations and other events related to funded projects. In some cases, Kraft employs consulting firms, such as the Conservation Company, to assist with special initiatives. In other instances teams of experts lend assistance, such as a medical team from USC — From the Wholesaler to the Hungry — that assists with the hunger program.

Kraft's arts program emphasizes integrating the arts into the public school arena. Amina Dickerson notes that the company's approach involves supporting national programs such as the Arts Education Partnership (see meeting report on page 10), the Kennedy Center Arts Alliance program, regional efforts like the Minnesota Arts Education Partnership, Higher Order Thinking Schools in Hartford, and the East Bay Arts Partnership for Educational Excellence in Oakland. To further maximize the impact of its arts giving, Kraft seeks to bolster teacher training, while supporting collaborative structures between schools and arts institutions, and emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspects of funded programs.

A cornerstone program supported by Kraft, Art Discovery is a Chicago-based initiative whereby arts institutions serve as resources to local schools. The latest iteration, Art Discovery II, stresses arts organizations working as resource and service providers to individual schools for arts programs, professional development, and curriculum planning. The competitive awards program provides up to $10,000 to winning proposals, and the Chicago Public School system adds another $5,000 for the funded projects. The twenty grantees selected in the recent round were among the city's forty-seven arts magnet schools.

One early Art Discovery partnership resulted in a special secondary program, “Matters of the Heart,” and focused on Chicago Shakespeare Repertory's production of Romeo and Juliet. Writing projects encouraged secondary school students to reflect on their own individual experiences. Collaborating organizations Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, enabled students to examine both Shakespeare's work and the play's themes through a variety of disciplines. Another funded program focused on science and its intersection with dance and the visual arts. Younger students are involved in a semester-long program that has been designed to sequentially reinforce children's understanding of basic science principles in an interactive fashion that also advanced the school's curriculum goals.

These and other funded programs will be featured on a new website to be launched by Kraft this fall. The site will include curriculum plans for teachers, offering successful examples of the interdisciplinary approach to arts education. Making such examples available on the web is in keeping with Kraft's intention to support programs that have potential for replication.

In the meantime, you might want to visit Kraft's website, which features hundreds of recipes and interesting facts. Did you know that the Toblerone mold patent was granted in 1909, and the authorizing signature was none other than that of Albert Einstein (another Toblerone fan), who happened to be working at the Patent Office at the time?

Ed Jones is vice president, J. P. Morgan.