There are more than 2,100 professional football players in the NFL, hailing from 45 of 50 states. They come from small towns and big cities; farms, suburbs, and urban communities stretching from Hawaii to Maine. But despite their game-ready physiques, national statistics inform us that one-in-five, or more than 400 of these athletes most likely grew up homes unsure of when or what their next meal might be.
Despite its overall economic prosperity, hunger is pervasive in the United States, impacting 15.9% of all individuals--and nearly 16 million children, according to Feeding America's latest study. One in five children live in a home referred to as "food insecure" where food is not available on a reliable basis, and access to healthy food is even more uncertain.
This statistic is not lost on the NFL. The very public story of Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans as told in the movie, "The Blind Side," is a poignant reminder of someone who overcame hunger, poverty and homelessness among other challenges on his way to a successful NFL career.
There are also notable examples of players taking on the issue of hunger head-on. Former St. Louis Rams center Jason Brown, recently moved on from his football career to raise crops on his 1,000-acre farm in North Carolina to help feed the hungry. He's already donated 10,000 pounds of cucumbers and 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to feed the needy and plans to plant twice as much acreage next year.
But players are not alone in this fight. Inspired by these stories and the commitment of its local teams and partners, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee is tackling the issue of hunger in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having recently launched 50 Fund--its signature philanthropic initiative--the Host Committee last week introduced #SB50Feeds to raise $150,000 to benefit the children and families served by the food banks of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers.
Every dollar donated through December 21, 2014, up to $50,000, will be matched 2:1 by the 50 Fund and The Safeway Foundation, which is working to end childhood hunger through the joint initiative Hunger Is in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation. With every donated dollar equal to six dollars of food, this campaign will generate $900,000 in food donations to feed hungry children and families in the Bay Area. Beneficiaries of this support include the Alameda County Community Food Bank; Second Harvest of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties; and the SF-Marin Food Bank.
We know that every donor who seeks to end hunger with a contribution to #SB50Feeds is a "winner," but to sweeten the pot, all Bay Area contributors will automatically be entered in a drawing for a pair of tickets to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona on February 1, 2015. Anyone can participate in giving online at 50fund.org or by texting TOUCHDOWN and their donation amount to 41444 or by Tweeting their donation amount to @50Fund with hashtag #tinygive.
As the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee is working towards the game to be played in San Francisco in 2016, the goal of its 50 Fund is to help close the opportunity gap for low-income Bay Area youth while making Super Bowl 50 the "most giving ever." The matched donations made by #SB50Feeds amplify individual donations to make an even greater difference in communities around the Bay Area.
Super Bowl 50 Host Committee wants to ensure that all children in the Bay Area don't go hungry and have access to healthy food we know is critical to their ability to grow and learn. We never know who the next football legend might be, so we want to ensure that all young people get the opportunity to grow up healthy, strong and secure, so they can make their own dreams possible. That begins with every child knowing when and what their next meal will be.
Jason Trimiew is VP, Community Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.