Krafting a nice idea for the bowl season, at the end of the day

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We’ve made our snarky two-cent comments, not just to why the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl seems a bit odd in the already strange-labeled college bowl season (and why is it the day before the national championship game again?), but also thrown in plenty of spare change in the true fight against hunger that exists in America.

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That said, we thought it was appropriate to run this story in collection with Sunday’s Nevada-Boston College contest (a game that USC played in last year, and the Pac-10 actually has first dibs on but it didn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams this season):

The Associated Press

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 early three dozen college football bowl games this holiday season.

But by the time the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl rolls around on Sunday, they’re aiming to tie a bowl game to a specific social cause to help fill millions of empty stomachs — as well s 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.

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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.

“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.

The closest thing to matching what the Kraft Bowl is trying to accomplish might by the one and only Mercy Bowl played Thanksgiving Day in 1961 at the L.A. Coliseum. It came following an airplane crash in Ohio the year before that killed 22 people, including 16 members of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football team. More than 33,000 turned out to see Fresno State beat Bowling Green 36-6, and funds went to offset burial costs, pay medical expenses and set up an educational fund for the victims’ families and survivors.

As a post script:
== The Pac-10 has a contract through 2013 with the formerly named Emeral Bowl, which intends to match the conference’s No. 6 team against top teams from the Western Athletic Conference, Navy and Army.

Previous Bowl Games:
2009 — USC 24, Boston College 13
2008 — California 24, Miami 17
2007 — Oregon State 21, Maryland 14
2006 — Florida State 44, UCLA 27
2005 — Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10
2004 — Navy 34, New Mexico 19
2003 — Boston College 35, Colorado State 21
2002 — Virginia Tech 20, Air Force 13

== Hunger statistics, provided by the Kraft Hunger Bowl staff:

1 in 6 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 kids struggle with hunger.
49 million Americans and 16.7 million children are affected.
There are 27% more Americans struggling with hunger now, than 4 years ago.
Feeding America’s network of food banks feed 37 million Americans every year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors.
For every $1 donated, Feeding America helps provide 7 meals to Americans facing hunger.
Kraft Foods’ new title sponsorship of the Fight Hunger Bowl is part of a three-year agreement with the San Francisco Bowl Game Association. With annual revenues of approximately $50 billion, Kraft Foods is the world’s second largest food company.

== More on Feeding America (formerly, America’s Second Harvest, linked here)
== More on Feeding America’s relationship with the Los Angeles Food Bank (linked here)

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