Rice giant taps Ali

LOS ANGELES: As part of a four-year program to combat childhood hunger, Uncle Ben's is partnering with former female boxer Laila Ali and the Kids Cafe program of America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network.

LOS ANGELES: As part of a four-year program to combat childhood hunger, Uncle Ben's is partnering with former female boxer Laila Ali and the Kids Cafe program of America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network.

Uncle Ben's will donate $1 million over the next four years to refurbish and open additional Kids Cafe locations around the US and provide free meals and snacks to low-income children.

Tami Cole, communications manager for Mars Food US, the parent company of Uncle Ben's, said the opening of a Kids Cafe at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenville, MI, was the program's first such effort.

Cole said there is no target number for how many locations it plans to open. The cafes, all located in Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs, will be near Mars plants or offices. This is part of the company's overall strategy to re-invest in its communities, Cole added.

Cole said PR efforts were getting underway this month.

"With our media outreach, we are targeting everything because this is a national campaign," she said. Targets include local, regional, and national print and broadcast outlets. The SMT commenced in Chicago last week.

The company teamed up with Ali to promote the partnership. She helped kick things off earlier this month with Uncle Ben's associates at the San Fernando Valley Kids CafŽ, where she cooked and served food to the 50 children who regularly use the facility.

Consumers can also participate by visiting Unclebens.com and signing a guest book or purchasing any of its products.

"For every guest book signature and purchase, money will be donated to the [$1 million] fund that's going to the program," Cole explained.

Cole would not disclose the budget for the program, but described it as a significant monetary investment.

Current Lifestyle Marketing is Uncle Ben's AOR.

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