MARQUETTE, Mich. -- In addition to awarding money for arena repairs and a nationally televised preseason NHL game to Lakeview Arena in Marquette as the winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016, Kraft also partnered with Stop Hunger Now in an effort to help alleviate and eventually eliminate worldwide hunger.
"This is the first year we brought the Stop Hunger Now event to the Kraft Hockeyville celebration and basically it was a group of 1,000 Marquette Senior High School students that came together to assemble hunger relief meals that we distribute around the world to stop hunger now," Jenece Upton, manager, Kraft Heinz company foundation and community relations said. "It was really just a special way to involve the community in a different way and leverage the excitement of Hockeyville to do something good for the global community."
Stop Hunger Now, which was founded in 1998, provides meals to crises and grants to developing countries, helping to also "promote education, encourage children to attend school, improve students' health and nutrition, address gender inequalities, stimulate economic growth, fight child labor, and are crucial to address global issues," according to its website.
"The reaction was overwhelming," Upton said. "We were so excited to see all of the enthusiasm that people brought to the event. We received such positive feedback from people who were just really proud to be part of an initiative like this and kind of doing something beyond Marquette to better other communities around the world as well."
The students were able to prepare more than 140,000 meals to be given to those in need.
"Not just the creation of 142,000 meals, but it's the engagement of the community and that's how we've grown so dramatically since 2005 from two million meals to 60 million meals this season," Paul Renaud, aid procurement director with Stop Hunger Now said.
According to its website, one in three people in developing countries lacks sufficient vitamin and mineral intake, and Stop Hunger Now has developed programs to combat and hopefully eventually eliminate hunger worldwide.
"Because of the generosity of Kraft Heinz, we are able to bring this event to this community," Renaud said. "We were able to engage the high school students this afternoon in an activity that allows them to help end hunger in our lifetime, which is our mission. It also beings them to together so they can learn about ending hunger and realize that it is a solvable problem."
One day before the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres play a preseason game at Lakeview Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), the community rallied around this good cause.
"With the Stop Hunger Now initiative in particular, we see ending global hunger as a movement, and the more people you can get involved, the closer we get to seeing a world without hunger, so anything we can do to grow the program and get more and more people involved, we definitely want to do and this was just a step in the right direction today," Upton said.
Both the Kraft and Stop Hunger Now were thrilled with the success of the event and said it could be a staple at Kraft Hockeyville in the future.
"It sounds like there's a lot of interest in making it an annual event so we hope to come back," Renaud said.