Best PR Campaigns of the Century: ConAgra’s Feeding Children Better

A well-planned PR campaign can have a major impact on a brand and the public. Truly stand-out best PR campaigns, like ConAgra’s Feeding Children Better, can transform a brand long-term, creating lasting results. 

In this piece, we will explore how ConAgra’s campaign reached new heights in a competitive and dense market. 

About ConAgra 

ConAgra Foods is one of the largest packaged food companies in North America. Their brands include some of the most well-known names in food: Hunt’s, Healthy Choice, Bumble Bee, Knott’s Berry Farm, Bluebonnet, Kid Cuisine, Chef Boyardee, and Orville Redenbacher, to name a few. You probably have a variety of ConAgra foods in your grocery bag, pantry, and dining room table right now without even realizing it. 

Corporate responsibility: The Feeding Children Better Initiative

ConAgra established the Feeding Children Better initiative in 1999 to combat childhood hunger in the U.S. Working alongside the Advertising Council and America’s Second Harvest food bank (today known as Feeding America), ConAgra launched a multi-tiered public service campaign that became one of the best PR campaigns of the century.

Laying the groundwork: the campaign’s three central elements

There were three main elements to ConAgra’s campaign: establishing the Kids Café, creating the Rapid Food Distribution initiative, and spreading public awareness through partnerships. 

ConAgra’s Kids Cafe

Kids Café is a national charitable meal service program for children at risk of hunger. Originally established in Kansas City at the Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy, the program now provides free food to low-income children across the country at “community locations during after school hours” such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs. 

Rapid Food Distribution System

ConAgra and America’s Second Harvest also established the Rapid Food Distribution initiative, which was designed to transform the food donation process. 

At the time, America’s Second Harvest was only receiving 22% of “unsaleables,” i.e. “damaged or irregular foods.” An additional 10% was estimated to provide “nearly 200 million more pounds of food into the charitable food distribution system.”   

The Rapid Food Distribution system consisted of both the Enterprise Project and the Transportation Initiative. ConAgra Foods financed a “computerized inventory system for nearly half of the network’s 188 affiliated food banks,” and helped “centralize transportation efforts, resulting in lower negotiated rates and improved on-time pickups.”

ConAgra’s Kids Café and Rapid Food Distribution initiative are remarkable examples of how coordinated, professional organization that directly benefits a large sector of the community. 

Vital partnerships

ConAgra’s partnerships were integral to the success of the Feeding Children Better initiative.  

The Ad Council Partnership

The Ad Council is an American nonprofit organization that helps create, distribute, and promote public service announcements. This organization is behind some of the most well-known public service pr campaigns in the country, including Smokey Bear, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk, and A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.

In 2001, the Ad Council agreed to a 3-year campaign with ConAgra Foods, and $100 million in ads. The two organizations worked together to develop television, print, and radio ads, as well as pamphlets and digital web banners. After one year, the Ad Council managed to reach 57.5 million people.  

The first part of the pr campaign was centered around the copy, “The sooner you believe it, the sooner we can end it.” Later, that statement evolved into “Hunger. A choice no one should have to make.”

More than $45 million worth of media was donated to promote the Ad Council’s campaign, which, in turn, provided ConAgra with free media coverage and increased awareness. Additionally, the U.S. The Department of Agriculture donated 9 million lunches to schools as a direct result of this campaign. 

America’s Second Harvest Partnership

America’s Second Harvest, now known as Feeding America, is America’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, serving a national network of more than 200 food banks. 

At the time of their partnership with ConAgra, America’s Second Harvest was distributing food and grocery products to more than 50,000 hunger-relief agencies. 

This partnership was instrumental in establishing the Feeding Children Better’s Kids Cafes and Rapid Food Distribution System. 

Center on Hunger & Poverty Partnership

ConAgra also partnered with the Center on Hunger & Poverty, a sub-department of Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy & Management, and the “leading scholarly institution addressing hunger policy and programs in the U.S.” 

By working closely with the Center on Hunger & Poverty, ConAgra was able to ground their PR campaign with real data and insights, making it all the more effective from start to finish.  

Jeff Bridges’ End Hunger Network Partnership 

Actor Jeff Bridges founded the End Hunger Network in 1983. Working with those in the entertainment industry, the End Hunger Network helps create “media projects, programs, and events” to end hunger. By liaising with writers, directors, executives, non-profits, and corporations, the Network strives to “motivate U.S. citizens to participate in the growing movement to end hunger.”  

In an address to the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Bridges remarked, “Nearly 17 million children in the United States don’t have reliable access to the food they need to lead healthy, active lives. But our kids aren’t hungry because we lack food or because of a lack of food and nutrition programs. They are hungry because they lack access to the nutritious food they need to grow and thrive.”

Connecting with a relevant and prominent organization with experience in savvy media exposure helped ConAgra get their campaign out there to a vast and interested audience. 

A message that resonates 

ConAgra’s PR campaign was named PRWeek’s 2001 Campaign of the Year and Community Relations Campaign of the Year. Feeding Children Better remains the nation’s largest initiative dedicated to fighting childhood hunger. 

ConAgra’s PR Campaign continues to resonate with audiences all over the country. 
Your brand may not have the reach or budget that an enterprise like ConAgra does, but you can still develop a PR campaign that benefits your community and creates a long-lasting impact. Ready to start? Give us a call!


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