It's commonplace for athletes to become heroes for their performances on the field. But the truly heroic ones will tell you that their biggest opportunity for impact happens off the field. That's what came to mind when I saw a CBS News segment about New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson's involvement in a new charitable initiative.
As a three-time All Star, pennant winner in both leagues and member of baseball's exclusive 20-20-20 Club (double, triples and home runs in the same season), Granderson knows how to deliver in clutch situations.
This season he's delivering in an entirely different way by helping to feed the hungry through a new nonprofit organization called Per Diems Against Poverty.
Major League Baseball players are guaranteed per diems of $100 when traveling, as part of the collective bargaining agreement. The per diems are meant as a safety net to ensure players can afford food while on the road. But with guaranteed minimum salaries of $507,000 per season -- and a league average of nearly 10 times that -- Granderson is one of several players choosing to pay it forward and donate his per diem to those who really need it.
Per Diems Against Poverty was founded to address the unfortunate reality that 1 in 7 Americans receives food from food banks every year. That's more than 48 million people, including 12 million children. In some areas, like New York City, the number jumps to as high as 1 in 5 people who are dependent on resources.
Per Diems Against Poverty has joined forces with Feeding America, the nation's largest network of food banks, to make it easy for pro athletes and other high earners to reallocate their per diem money to any of more than 200 food banks nationwide. Granderson is supporting six food banks across four states with his donation, providing resources for more than 100,000 meals. That's right: One season of per diems checks is enough to feed 25 families of four for an entire year.
Granderson, who has been giving back for years with his Grand Kids Foundation's Grand Giving Initiative, told CBS that several of his teammates have approached him about getting involved in his cause. He noted he hopes the initiative catches on across other sports, too, since athletes across all major sports take home similar per diem amounts.
Per Diems Against Poverty is doing its part to make sure as many meals are provided as possible: The charity's executive director Jennifer Barker says, "One hundred percent of every per diem dollar pledged goes directly to the Feeding America food banks of the donor's choice. That's not the goal -- that's the rule!"
Although the charity is just getting started, it hopes to have 100 MLB players signed by the end of the season. With 100 players, the impact multiplies to more than 10 million meals for hungry Americans. Granderson is one of 12 athletes/celebrities on board, but he is the only one who has attached his name to the project. At least for now, the others are keeping their donations anonymous because they're already aligned with other causes.
Representatives for players interested in donating their per diems can email Barker at email@example.com.