CHAMPAIGN — Weeks before the University of Illinois Fighting Illini meet the UCLA Bruins in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on New Year's Eve, their fans are squaring off in a contest of their own.
And the stakes are high for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.
Kraft is hosting a competition on its Fight Hunger Facebook page for fans of each team, to see which community can win a meal donation by playing a two-minute trivia drill.
The competition will run through Dec. 30, and Kraft will award the winning community's food bank the cash value of 75,000 meals.
At 14 cents a meal from Kraft, that would be $10,500, but the local food bank can squeeze 10 times the value out of that, says Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.
"That's about $100,000 worth of food, because for every dollar we receive, we can distribute about $10 worth of food," she said.
The second annual Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game, to be played in San Francisco, is part of Kraft's Huddle to Fight Hunger campaign in which Kraft Foods, its partners and football fans have donating meals throughout the football season to Feeding America, with a goal of reaching 25 million meals. The meals are intended to reach more than 50 million Americans living in food-insecure households.
The cash value of 75,000 meals for one of the two bowl team's local food bank will be awarded as an extra donation beyond the 25 million meals, according to Kraft Foods.
Precious said she's excited about this competition because Illinois fans will be able to show their support for the team and support the food bank at the same time — and it won't even cost them any money.
Here's how to participate: Visit the Kraft Fight Hunger Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/KraftFightHunger  and press the "like" button, and one meal will be automatically donated to Feeding America to go to food banks across the nation.
Additional meals can then be donated specifically to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank by entering your zip code and playing a two-minute trivia drill game. You can play the game as much as you like, and each time you play, you secure another meal donation, according to Kraft.
The Eastern Illinois Foodbank provides food to the hungry through a network of food pantries and agencies in 14 counties. Its executive director, Jim Hires, said Kraft's Fight Hunger contest is not only about the donation the food bank.
It's about keeping the issue of hunger in front of the public.
"It would be substantial if we could do this," he said.
He and Precious said the food bank has had a valuable relationship with Kraft for a number of years.
The Champaign Kraft plant has given the food bank "thousands and thousands of pounds of food over the years," Precious said.
Kraft also supports the food bank's foodmobile with a direct grant, she said. The foodmobile provides one-day food distributions to areas that aren't well-served by food pantries and soup kitchens.
Precious said the food bank plans to heavily promote the Hunger Bowl challenge through social media in the upcoming weeks.