WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Most hungry children in the U.S. suffer quietly, and are unnoticed until a teacher or a doctor recognizes their "failure to thrive." Hungry children are everywhere, in every single corner of America—including Montgomery County, Md. The first and most critical step to solving this problem is learning to see it. Diana Messett of Mt. Airy, Md. not only sees how hunger affects a growing population, she voluntarily works to eliminate it. Tonight, the information security & technology acquisition manager at Sodexo will be recognized as a Hero of Everyday Life® at the 13th Annual Sodexo Foundation Dinner in Washington, D.C. As part of that recognition, Messett will receive a $5,000 grant, presented in her name to the hunger-relief charity of her choice, Manna Food Center.
On a daily basis, Diana Messett demonstrates how innovation and creativity can be driving forces for business growth and community support alike. Since 2007, her leadership in helping fight hunger in Montgomery County has increased volunteer participation, food donations and Smart Sacks distributions—a local backpack food program for children. As a direct result of Messett's work, 160,600 kid-friendly nutritious food items were donated to Manna Food Center during Sodexo Servathon events, and 21,000 backpacks have gone to students who might otherwise go hungry on weekends and during school breaks.
"Diana's dedication to fighting hunger in the community is more than commendable, it's a model for us all," said Robert A. Stern, Chair, Sodexo Foundation. "That one in five children can go to bed hungry or spend weekends unsure about the next meal is unthinkable to Diana. It should be for all of us. We all have to roll up our sleeves and take hunger personally."
Through sheer will and ingenuity, Messett managed to sustain growth in the amount of kid-friendly food products collected for Manna Food Center over multiple years, including a 73% jump in donations as a result of engaging the competitive spirit of fellow employees. Thanks in part to her efforts, Manna Food Center's Smart Sacks program and its volunteers received the President's Volunteer Service Award, recognition created by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, honoring Americans who inspire others to engage in volunteer service. She also received recognition for her leadership with Smart Sacks by Maryland's Montgomery County Executive. Dedicating both time and money, Messett has logged more than 1,700 volunteer hours and inspired more than 50 Sodexo employees and vendor partners to support the local community by reaching children in need.
"The children who are hungry and in need of our help are not always readily visible but they are often just a stone's throw away," says Messett. "Our efforts cannot stop until every child is able to eat on a regular basis."
There are more than 16 million children living in America in homes where meals are uncertain. That's one in five American kids at risk of hunger every day. Tragically, while 22 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, only 3 million of them are aware of or have access to existing free meal programs during weekends and school breaks. The volunteer efforts by Heroes of Everyday Life, like Messett, help to bridge that gap.
Sodexo Foundation recognizes Sodexo employees who invest their time, talent, and service spirit in helping those at-risk of hunger in the United States. Nominated by a colleague, friend or employer, selected Heroes are honored at the annual Sodexo Foundation Dinner and receive a $5,000 grant for their hunger-related charity of choice.
Diana L. Messett is one of five Heroes of Everyday Life recognized in 2012 by Sodexo Foundation. Others include: Lana M. Kruse of Lake St. Louis, Mo., Karen A. Peloquin of Douglas, Mass., Phyll Dondis Ribakoff of Weston, Mass. and Cynthia L. Steele of Columbia, S.C.
ABOUT SODEXO'S FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER
Sodexo Inc. and Sodexo Foundation work to help end hunger in the United States. Sodexo Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission to end childhood hunger. The foundation works to ensure that every child in the United States, especially those most at-risk, grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life. Sodexo Foundation cultivates and maintains strategic partnerships with regional and national hunger relief entities and youth mobilization organizations—all part of Sodexo's STOP Hunger Initiative, its global program to end hunger and malnutrition in the communities where it operates. Sodexo is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. and funds all administrative costs for Sodexo Foundation, which since 1999 has made more than $17 million in grants to end childhood hunger. Visit www.SodexoFoundation.org for more information.
Sodexo's STOP Hunger Programs
Impact to Date (as of June 2012)
Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship
Heroes of Everyday Life®
Feeding Our Future®
Backpack Food Program
Distributed more than $17 million in grants
Gave $353,000 in scholarships & matching grants
Awarded $478,000 to employees' hunger charities
Funded more than 2.9 million summer meals
Mobilized 125,000 employees to fight hunger
Funded 70 programs; providing 2 million meals
SOURCE Sodexo, Inc.