October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

How will the relocation of ConAgra Foods’ headquarters affect local philanthropy?

Short answer: No one knows for sure. What is certain is that ConAgra Foods will continue its charity work in the Omaha area, and it will persist in fighting hunger (the company’s signature philanthropic cause).

The relocation of the headquarters of the Fortune 500 company—founded in 1919 as Nebraska Consolidated Mills—is well known. But Chris Kircher, vice president of corporate affairs and president of the ConAgra Foods Foundation, says many people have got it wrong about how many jobs will be lost.

“ConAgra will retain a large presence in Nebraska,” says Kircher. “Only 300 jobs are moving to Chicago. Our presence in this area is about 2,100, still three times the size of the Chicago operation.”

With 1,200 employees on its riverfront campus, Omaha remains ConAgra’s largest office location. This is good news for the nonprofit groups that count on ConAgra employees for their history of generous volunteer assistance.

ConAgra1ConAgra’s downsizing is occurring at an increasingly competitive time for the food industry. More competition and lower revenue streams have driven change within the company. The corporate transformation has real implications for ConAgra’s philanthropic footprint.

“We are in the process of divesting and spinning off businesses. We announced (it) early on as part of the transformation efforts selling our private brand label,” says Kircher.

“When you are a smaller company, that’s going to affect every functional area, including the foundation.”

Annual giving has been in the area of $10 million, he notes. A good portion of that is local. Add to that in-kind donations.

“The question is ‘will that $10 million still be available?’” says Kircher. “It’s safe to assume we’ll continue to be engaged in hunger locally and continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland in a big way.”

People also misconceive how active ConAgra has been in Chicago for some time. “About three-fourths of our retail food business has been headquartered in Chicago before we announced these changes. Only one-fourth of the retail food business was in Omaha.

“Management is moving that quarter of the retail food business up to the three-fourths of business that was based in Chicago already. After we get done with investiture and spin-off, that will be our biggest business. A lot of functional areas will still be in Omaha.”

ConAgra is not suddenly leaving their partner nonprofit organizations without support. Many local groups received what Kircher calls “an exit grant.”

“We have explained we aren’t going to have the same kinds of resources as in the past.”

But if the cause has to do with hunger—especially child hunger—ConAgra will look for a way to help.

“We will continue to support the Food Bank for the Heartland and hunger-focused initiatives,” says Kircher. “It reflects one of the primary philanthropic avenues we’ve had a long time and will continue to have.”

Visit conagrafoods.com/our-commitment for more information. B2B

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