Standing in front of a Jolly Green Giant-size inflatable bag of Tootie Fruities, Matt Hillmann listed the ways cereal manufacturer Malt-O-Meal’s “very generous” gift of $25,000 will help hungry students and bring the community together.
In honor of Malt-O-Meal’s centennial and its parent company, Post Consumer Brands’ 125th anniversary, company leaders presented Hillmann with an oversize check Saturday at an event featuring a free community breakfast and day-long carnival. The event, scheduled for Ames Park in downtown Northfield, had to be moved south to the Dundas Dome when forecasters began calling for 30-degree temperatures and snow flurries.
“If you don’t have enough to eat, you can’t learn,” said Hillmann, Northfield Public Schools superintendent. Just yards from the podium where Hillmann stood were dozens of young children, happily climbing on bouncy houses, trying their hand at miniature golf or basketball, and getting their faces painted.
The money, he said, will be distributed between three district programs: its Alternative Learning Center Backpack Program, Angel Fund and Greenvale Park Community School grade-level dinners.
The Backpack Program, which provides healthy food for food insecure ALC students, and the Angel Fund, which helps pay for meals for students whose parents are struggling to afford them, will each get $7,500.
Currently, the ALC has about 90 students. Of that number, 16 percent are considered homeless, he said. Many more are food insecure. Similar to the Northfield Community Action Center’s Backpack Program, the ALC provides a bag filled with healthy foods each weekend for students in need.
Much of the rest of the donation will pay for five years of Community School dinners, where families are invited for a free meal at school, one for each grade level. Hillmann said the dinners, which won’t be held again until fall 2020, help parents, students and teachers develop connections and improve relationships.
Also at the event was Mayor Rhonda Pownell, who praised the city’s largest employer for not only for its donation, but for “long (providing) a strong and stable foundation for Northfield.”
The company, found by John Campbell in Owatonna in 1919, moved to Northfield in 1927. Campbell’s product, Malt-O-Meal, was considered revolutionary. Along with C.W. Post’s grain-based beverage, Postum, launched in 1895, and what in 1897 was considered a “sweet” cereal, Grape Nuts, the products made breakfast quicker and more affordable for Americans in the early part of the 20th century.
Each year, the Campbell Mill on Hwy. 3 produces 300 million pounds of cereal, said Post Consumer Brands President/CEO Howard Friedman, who boasted that many the plant employees are second generation workers.
“From my perspective, that’s the greatest compliment we can get.” he said, adding that this year alone the company will donate 21 bowls of cereal to those who are food insecure.
Malt-O-Meal has a long history of helping the school district, said Hillmann. The company and several of its employees now work with the district and students on workforce development programs.
“They help young people see their future in a variety of ways,” he said.