If you've been looking for an issue to build a cause marketing platform around, some sobering news was released last week that may help illuminate the light bulb.
A new Gallup poll shows that nearly 20 percent of Americans don't know how they're going to afford their next meal: One in five people could potentially go hungry on any given day.
Although there have been marked improvements in some areas of the economy, and consumer optimism is slightly rising, the food affordability outlook remains dismal. With staggering drought conditions and lingering high gas and commodity prices, this issue isn't likely to go away anytime soon.
Hunger is no longer a "starving children in Africa" issue; it is very real right here. And the restaurant industry is ideally positioned to take the lead on reversing this trend.
Plenty of brands have stepped up to do just that. Yum! Brands has been involved in global hunger relief initiatives since 2007, raising tens of millions of dollars for agencies around the world. The parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell is gearing up for its annual fall World Hunger Relief effort, when consumers can help by visiting FromHungertoHope.com or donating in restaurants.
And as we get ready to cross into September, restaurants across the country are launching promotions to raise funds for Share Our Strength's Dine Out For No Kid Hungry campaign.
Last year, nearly 60 different brands and more than 300 independents hosted fundraisers for the effort, raising nearly $2.4 million. This was nearly $1 million more than what was raised for the cause the year prior. Participating brands included Ted's Montana Grill, Denny's, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, Corner Bakery Cafe, Joe's Crab Shack, Bar Louie, P.F. Chang's, O'Charley's and McAlister's Deli.
Arby's, the largest quick-service chain participating, contributed more than $2.2 million toward the cause in 2011. This year, through Sept. 30, Arby's restaurants nationwide will once again collect money toward ending childhood hunger with a goal of raising $2.5 million.
Pizza Fusion has also signed on to raise money for No Kid Hungry this year, and is selling t-shirts throughout September with all proceeds going toward the organization.
This week, California Tortilla announced it has pledged $25,000 to Dine Out for No Kid Hungry this year, through a Dine Out Truck Hunt, in-store donations and food incentives for customers.
Romano's Macaroni Grill also kicked off its campaign with in-restaurant promotions, social sharing activities and a blogger call-to-action.
From Sept. 1-30, with every $1 donation to the Kid Hungry campaign, Togo's guests will receive a free 20 oz. fountain drink to use during their next visit. Last year, Togo's began its partnership with Share Our Strength by raising more than $18,000 and this year the company aims to more than double its prior donation.
Now in its fifth year, Dine Out For No Kid Hungry has raised more than $4 million for the No Kid Hungry campaign.
"Everyone — private citizens, businesses, policymakers, and nonprofits—has a role in helping end childhood hunger in America," said Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength. "I encourage everyone to dine out often at participating restaurants wherever they are this September. Then visit NoKidHungry.org to join this national movement to ensure that every child in America has access to the nutritious food they need, every day."
Hunger affects Americans of all ages and backgrounds, and industry players across segments are increasingly recognizing their ability to do something about it. Looking to help someway, somehow? This year, Dine Out For No Kid Hungry week is slated for Sept. 16-22. Operators can visit DineOutForNoKidHungry.org where they'll find an online resource center with tools and best practices for creating a campaign.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.