Browns players, alumni and staff, as well as members of Stripes United — composed of coaches' and players' significant others — gathered at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Tuesday to package tens of thousands of meals and food items for local shelters, food pantries and food sites throughout Northeast Ohio.
Veterans and rookies, including Myles Garrett, Harrison Bryant, Greg Newsome II and several other Browns players, all joined volunteers eager to start the holiday season by giving back to Northeast Ohio. The gathering is one of many jointly-hosted events by the Browns and Greater Cleveland Food Bank, a First and Ten community partner, as they team up to help fight hunger and ensure families have access to nutritious meals throughout the year, particularly during high times of need like the winter holidays and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're here today to be a positive force in the community," Garrett said. "I think that's what everybody is here for — especially the players. We all want to give back and help those who are around us and care about us."
The Browns have partnered with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to package and distribute food before Thanksgiving since 2006. Players weren't able to attend the gathering last year due to the pandemic, but the Food Bank was back to normal festivities Tuesday and bustling with players and staff who packaged and moved food boxes from the assembly line to the loading trucks.
Volunteers produced more than 27,000 meals, which will help the Food Bank be adequately prepared to distribute large donations throughout the holiday season. Some of the food packages contained turkey and fresh produce and will be administered for Thanksgiving, while other packages contained a weekend food bag for kids who aren't able to eat school-provided meals on non-school days. 1,595 additional lunches were also made for kids and will be distributed at schools, libraries and community programs.
Vitamix, the presenting partner of this year's Food Bank visit, will also present a $2,500 check to the organization, which will help provide 10,000 meals to members of the community. For each $1 donated, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is able to provide four nutritious meals to families in need within the region.
"This is a day that all our staff look forward to," said Karen Ponza, Director of Communications and Special Events for the Food Bank. "It's just a great community-wide effort. It really shows the importance of volunteering, getting involved in the community, and it's such an important time of the year. So many people like to give back during the holidays, and we love partnering with the Browns."
During the first half of November, the team hosted its annual Browns Give Back First and Ten Food Drive, presented by Sugardale, to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. For the first time, the initiative was conducted in a virtual format to allow for enhanced participation after it typically occurred prior to a home game at FirstEnergy Stadium. To launch the campaign, Sugardale donated $10,000 worth of hams to help fight hunger in the region this holiday season. Since 2019, the Browns Give Back First and Ten Food drive has helped provide nearly 200,000 meals to Northeast Ohio families.
Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to #give10 and help their communities by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. To date, more than 2.75 million hours of volunteering have been pledged through First and Ten. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.
If you would like to help the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and make a charitable contribution this holiday season, visit: http://www.greaterclevelandfoodbank.org/give-help/donate-food-funds.