Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo lend a hand to Flint, Michigan

The four blue chip companies are vowing to bring more than 10,000 children the water they need for the rest of the year.

"Downtown Flint Michigan taken from Genesee Towers" by Flintmichigan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons
"Downtown Flint Michigan taken from Genesee Towers" by Flintmichigan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

BENTONVILLE, AK: Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo are joining forces to ensure school-age children in Flint, Michigan, have safe access to drinking water through this year as their city endures a water-safety crisis.

The four companies said on Tuesday that their partnership will bring more than 10,000 children the water they need each day, or 6.5 million bottles for the rest of 2016.

Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability offer at Walmart, said the donation will support both the needs of Flint residents and take some work off the city’s shoulders.

"Our associates live and work in this community," she said, noting there are 1,000 people associated with the retailer in Flint.

When Walmart wanted to boost its support for the community, the idea of donating water to schools came from conversations with local residents, said McLaughlin. Before partnering with PepsiCo, Nestle, and Coca-Cola, the retailer donated water filters and water-testing kits, she said.

Flint, which has a population of 100,000, began using water from the Flint River instead of getting its supply from Detroit nearly two years ago. Researchers have recently found elevated lead levels in the water supply and tests have shown significantly elevated lead levels in the city’s children.

The brands are also encouraging consumers to use to donate. The website allows individuals to see what items are needed and gauge progress in the water crisis in the Michigan city.

Shabab Gruberg, CEO of Good360, said the nonprofit is connecting local organizations with the supplies they need, whether filters or lead testers or toilet paper and shampoo for volunteers. It’s also finding places to store the donated water as more makes its way into Flint.

"We stay with the entire lifecycle of a disaster or crisis," he explained, adding that people can use the site to see what is needed and where donated goods are going.

UPS and the CVS Health Foundation are also listed as partners on the portal focused on Flint. It connects visitors with nonprofits working in the city such as Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, Mission of Hope, Think Beyond the Chair, and Dedicated Believers Ministries.

Walmart began helping the city in July, donating more than 500,000 bottles, while Coca-Cola has distributed Dasani to residents. Starting in October, Nestle Waters North America gave more than 190,000 bottles to the area and PepsiCo has spent four months getting out nearly 95,000 bottles, the companies said in the statement.

Celebrities such as Diddy, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, and Mark Whalberg are also coming to the city’s aid, promising 1 million water bottles.

Under criticism that his administration exacerbated the crisis, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office has hired Mercury and Finn Partners’ Bill Nowling for crisis communications support.

This story was updated on January 26 with comment from Gruberg.

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