LAKELAND | United Way Worldwide recently gave the Mosaic Co. a Summit Award, its highest corporate honor, for its national and international philanthropic efforts, including helping to feed the hungry in Africa, Guatemala, India and Central Florida.
Agape Food Bank and Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), both based in Lakeland, and needy students in Mulberry number among the beneficiaries of Mosaic’s generosity.
Mosaic gave Agape a $50,000 grant for its SmilePak program, which provides food to feed more than 500 students in the Mulberry area during the weekend when they have no access to school food programs, said Callie Neslund, a Mosaic spokeswoman at its Mulberry office.
Agape fills a backpack full of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious food before the weekend, she said, and the students return the empty backpack on Monday.
The company also gave a $32,000 grant to VISTE to set up an urban garden near its Lakeland office with help from local Future Farmers of America members, Neslund said. VISTE distributes produce from the garden to its members.
The Summit award cites Mosaic’s “Home Runs for Food” program with the Tampa Bay Rays among its notable philanthropic efforts. The company donates $500 to Feeding America Tampa Bay for every home run, according to a United Way press statement.
The Tampa Bay group served hungry people in 10 Central Florida counties with more than 30 million meals last year, said Debbi McCarthy, director of development. Agape, which serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, is a local affiliate.
“Mosaic’s Home Runs For Food is an important annual funding source for Feeding America Tampa Bay,” McCarthy said. “Summer is an especially difficult time for low- income families and children who depend on school meals. We are grateful for Mosaic’s support during that challenging time of year.”
Mosaic has donated more than $260,000 to Feeding America Tampa Bay since the program began in the 2010 season, said David Townsend, a Mosaic spokesman from its phosphate fertilizer division headquarters in Lithia.
During that time, the company donated another $41,000 to the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, which serves Charlotte and Lee counties, for every spring training home run, he said. The Rays’ spring training facility is in Port Charlotte.
Mosaic, the Comcast media company and General Motors received Summit awards for philanthropic engagement during an April 18 luncheon at United Way’s national conference in Indianapolis.
The awards are part of the charitable group’s Spirit of America program honoring corporations in the categories of philanthropy, community impact and volunteer engagement, said Amanda Ponzar, a United Way spokeswoman, from its Alexandria, Va., headquarters.
“What’s best about this award is we don’t choose the winners,” said Ponzar, adding that a committee of corporate executives selects Summit winners.
Mosaic and its employees contributed $25.4 million in community investments worldwide in 2012, including $7.7 million to United Way, according to a United Way statement.
The company recently gave United Way of Central Florida based in Highland City $669,368 as its matching share of local employee contributions in 2012, Townsend said.
The world’s leading fertilizer manufacturer was also recognized for its Mosaic Villages Project, which gives subsistence farmers in Guatemala, India and seven African countries expert assistance on sustainable agricultural practices to increase crop yields, said Rob Litt, a company spokesman from Mosaic’s corporate headquarters in Plymouth, Minn.
“It’s not a handout program; it’s a hands-up program,” Litt said. “It raises some of these communities out of the poverty level to the point where they can now sell their crops on the market.”
Mosaic agronomists work with the local farmers on increasing efficiency with available technology, he said, and they help obtain micro loans, generally worth about $100, to buy fertilizers and equipment.
“Through their work at Mosaic and their personal generosity, our 8,000 employees help make a difference in the health and livelihoods of neighbors around the world,” said Jim Prokopanko, Mosaic CEO, in a press statement. “In accepting this Summit Award, we’re inspired to continue building a culture where employees can help families and individuals who need nourishment and support through programs funded by United Way.”
Mosaic employs more than 2,000 workers at its Polk County facilities, which include three phosphate rock mines (Four Corners, South Fort Meade and Hookers Prairie) and two fertilizer plants (Bartow and New Wales).