Supporting Food Banks through Pro Bono: The Feeding America Hillshire Brands Partnership by Christine Feiner

April 24, 2014
by Christine Feiner

When you think of volunteering with your co-workers, maybe you think of sorting food at a food bank or maybe even painting a school or planting trees in a park. You might not think of tackling the organizational challenges faced by non-profits.� On Friday, April 11, that is just what a team of Hillshire Brands employees did as the final step in an innovative employee volunteer initiative.

As part of a pro bono pilot program with the Taproot Foundation�and Feeding America, Hillshire Brands employees worked closely with the Feeding America National Office and select Feeding America food banks that serve areas where the company operates to help solve organizational challenges ranging from facilities planning to IT and human resources strategy development.

During the most recent day-long session at Hillshire's Chicago headquarters, three employees representing multiple departments worked with members of Feeding America's Culture Team, a cross-departmental group focused on cultivating and integrating Feeding America's values, culture and guiding principles. Feeding America participants shared their perspective on the special culture within the organization and how they envisioned promoting and institutionalizing this culture. In turn, Hillshire Brands employees shared their unique perspective having recently rebranded and redefined the organization's culture.

As a result of the discussion, the group created custom communications pieces to help engage Feeding America staff in the Culture Team's efforts to cultivate a thriving, vibrant and supportive work environment at the Feeding America national office. �With the guidance of Hillshire's Human Resources team and other employees who have been leaders in supporting Hillshire's corporate culture, Feeding America was able to create visuals that articulate and celebrate Feeding America's unique culture.

By the end of the day, Feeding America's team was able to walk away with tools and templates that will allow them to continue their work and Hillshire Brands employees were able to use their skills and experience to affect change at a non-profit.

This experience will be repeated in the coming months with four Feeding America food banks focusing on issues including safety and distribution, building financial models and facilities planning. In each collaboration, the non-profits will have the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of company leaders while Hillshire Brands' employees will apply their professional skills in a unique and innovative way that provides a meaningful and enjoyable volunteer experience.

While food banks will always need volunteers packing and sorting food, Hillshire Brand's pilot pro bono program with the Taproot Foundation and Feeding America is an exciting model for additional ways companies can support charitable organizations in their community. Feeding America and its member food banks would not be able to feed 37 million people each year without the help of the 650,000 volunteers who support Feeding America annually.

Christine Feiner is a Manager of Corporate Partnerships for Feeding America.