Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl focuses on social cause
Sure, the folks at Kraft Foods Inc. want you to pile their Ritz crackers with cheese, pass the Planters nuts and polish off a bag of Oreos while watching any of nearly three dozen college football bowl games this holiday season.
But by the time the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl rolls around Jan. 9, they're aiming to tie a bowl game to a specific social cause to help fill millions of empty stomachs - as well as seats at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where No. 13 Nevada will play Boston College.
''We're the only bowl named after a cause. We are very proud of that,'' said Gary Cavalli, co-founder and executive director of the game. It started in San Francisco in 2002 as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl before becoming the Emerald Bowl.
From the Humanitarian Bowl in Idaho to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, most bowls have a charitable component. Cavalli said the difference is that no specific cause is identified.
The East-West Shrine Game, to be played Jan. 22 in Orlando, has raised money since 1925 for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Cavalli called it an all-star game rather than a bowl game.
Cavalli said the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has sold more than 34,000 tickets and could sell out for the Nevada-Boston College matchup the night before the national title game between No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon.
''Part of our mission is to generate 20 million meals for hungry people throughout the United States,'' Cavalli said. ''It's an opportunity for all of us to do some good while we are having a football game.''
Besides raising awareness, the bowl is donating a meal to a food bank for every ticket sold. That's part of Kraft's Huddle to Fight Hunger program, in conjunction with Feeding America - a nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks that fed more than 37 million people last year.
''We didn't want to just be a marketing platform for the Fight Hunger initiative, we wanted to get involved in it,'' Cavalli said.
Cavalli said 15,359 meals - at a cost of four meals per $1 - will go to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada in recognition of the Nevada share of tickets that sold out last week.
Cherie Jamason, executive director of the Reno-based food bank, said the help couldn't come at a better time in a state with 14.3 percent unemployment and one in five children living in poverty. Jamason said they've helped provide food to a record 153,000 people this year, almost half of them children.
''We are really pleased and thrilled about Kraft's commitment,'' Jamason said.
She said she's been familiar with Kraft's participation on Feeding America's board of directors for more than 30 years.
Nevada football coach Chris Ault said it helps the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl stand out during a postseason that now includes 35 bowl games.
The closest thing to the Kraft Bowl might by the one and only Mercy Bowl played Thanksgiving Day in 1961. It came following an airplane crash in Ohio the year before that killed 22 people, including 16 members of the Cal Poly football team, a manager and a booster.
More than 33,000 turned out to see Fresno State beat Bowling Green 36-6 in a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Funds went to offset burial costs, pay medical expenses and set up an educational fund for the victims' families and survivors.