CHAMPAIGN — No matter whether the Illini or the Bruins emerge victorious in Saturday's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, hungry people in East Central Illinois will come out winners.
Kraft announced late Friday night that while UCLA defeated the University of Illinois in the Kraft Foods' Huddle to Fight Hunger contest, the company will still donate 25,000 meals to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, which serves the local area.
"That's really wonderful," said Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.
"Obviously, this is a time of unprecedented need for us. We need to be creative to raise the support we need to keep up with the high level of demand. This is a great way to ring in the new year."
Over the last several weeks, fans of both teams and people around the world have been logging onto the Kraft Foods' Huddle to Fight Hunger Facebook page and taking part in a "2-Minute Trivia Drill" game, with every point earned equivalent to one meal donation to Feeding America, a national domestic hunger-relief charity.
The goal of the contest was to reach 25 million meals to help people living in food-insecure households across the country.
In addition, the University of Illinois and UCLA communities have been squaring off in their own contest, with the community that earned the most points getting the cash value of 75,000 meals for its local food bank.
Kraft representative David Bauer said this year's Huddle to Fight Hunger program generated more than 25 million meals to Feeding America. The meals are intended to reach more than 50 million Americans living in households without secure sources of food.
According to the contest's Facebook page, Kraft donated 21 million meals to Feeding America following last year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Bauer said he couldn't say exactly how many people took part in this year's contest because each person was able to play the trivia game and donate a meal multiple times.
"So for example, if there were 100 meals donated, it doesn't necessarily mean that 100 different people played," he said.
Bauer said the UCLA community's margin of victory over the UI community wasn't available on Friday night.
In addition, to further support the mission of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, organizers are donating a meal for every ticket sold for the football game, as well as in the name of every player participating in the game.
Players and coaches from the UI and UCLA also volunteered at San Francisco Bay Area food pantries on Friday.