The Charitable Potential of Fowl

In 2011, two Philadelphia-based food distributors, Tyson Foods and ARAMARK, gave a joint gift of nearly 14.5 tons of boneless chicken to a nonprofit food bank called Philabundance. An official from Philabundance estimated that the donors' generosity would help feed as many as 30,000 people.

Tyson Foods of Arkansas heaved in their share of fowl as part of their Million Pounds in March, a larger 2011 giveaway of over a million pounds of food to select hunger-fighting groups nationwide. Since 2001, Tyson claims to have donated a total of "78 million pounds of protein, or the equivalent of 300 million meals." Tyson also has its own hunger awareness campaign, Know Hunger, and commissions research on the issue.

For fund-seekers in the Philadelphia area, however, ARAMARK (the caps are their thing, not mine) is probably the name worth remembering. An area provider of "professional services," ARAMARK's donor-advised charitable fund gives away around $10 million annually, according to their site. That number "can represent 15-25% of ARAMARK’s net income," although it's not entirely what the word "can" means in this context.

Though most ARAMARK grants find destinations in other urban centers and national efforts — like this $1 million to the American Diabetes Association for research on childhood obesity — some of their charitable money stays closer to home, as well.

Last year, The Federation of Neighborhood Centers (FNC) cashed $1 million from Aramark's "Building Community" program to renovate two children's community centers, one located in Southwest and the other in West Oak Lane. The ARAMARK Charitable Fund gives to local arts and education programs like the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Philadelphia Academies, a vocational training program for kids in public schools. The fund is also "involved with The National Constitution Center, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Please Touch Museum."

The obvious question: why chicken and not cash for Philabundance? I've expressed my suspicion toward companies that make "charitable donations" of their own products with their own brand names on them elsewhere. But it's not like there were Tyson and ARAMARK brand chickens running around Philabundance's warehouse for everyone coming home on the Walt Whitman to gawk at.

It's not really product placement; it's just odd.