Giving back

General Mills celebrates 15 years of impact with Partners in Food Solutions

Fifteen years ago, in the halls of General Mills, a group of employees came together around an idea to leverage their skills and expertise to help African entrepreneurial food companies advance their business. That idea ultimately grew into Partners in Food Solutions.
PFS client using machine to break eggs.

Starting from the ground up

When former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, reached out to General Mills asking for help to improve the safety, quality, and availability of food in Africa, a team of dedicated employees quickly volunteered to help find a solution.

After many email exchanges with African businesses and hours of research, the team made a key realization: many of the challenges the food processors experienced mirrored similar challenges General Mills faced throughout its history. From completing food safety certifications to product development, General Mills had more than a century of experience it could share – even from thousands of miles away.

“The corporate culture of General Mills is one of always giving back to the community,” said Jeff Harmening, Chairman and CEO, General Mills. “Whether that is in Minneapolis or whether that is in Africa, people have always wanted to give back. But also, we have an expertise in food – we make food the world loves – and that is how Partners in Food Solutions got started here.”

Over the years, more General Mills employees joined the initiative, volunteering their time and sharing their expertise to help growing food companies across Africa. Realizing its potential, Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) became an independent nonprofit organization in 2011, allowing the organization to expand in new ways.

Fifteen years of impact

Today, PFS is a consortium of some of the world’s largest food companies — General Mills, Cargill, Bühler, DSM-Firmenich, Ardent Mills, The Hershey Company, and The J.M. Smucker Company — providing more than 800 years of collective experience and access to thousands of employee volunteers who are helping advance the African food system together.

The collective impact has grown exponentially:

  • 2,145 volunteers have worked with more than 2,000 African food businesses
  • More than 160,000 volunteer hours contributed
  • More than $100 million in investments have been unlocked for clients
  • 40+ billion safer, more nutritious, affordable meal servings produced

Check out the below video to learn more about our 15-year journey:

The impact beyond Africa

General Mills employee volunteers often share that they learn much in return. Whether it is getting exposed to a new emerging market in Kenya, helping develop a new product that is attuned to the local population in Lagos, Nigeria, or learning about the challenges millers in Uganda face when processing teff, a native grain to Africa.

“Our people care about having an impact on the world for good,” says Dana McNabb, group president, North America Retail, General Mills and Partners in Food Solutions board member. “Being able to offer the opportunity to our employees to engage, to help, to learn, to bring that learning back to our business which helps us grow, is an incredible cycle that is good for us, good for the world, and is good for the business.”

In a recent PFS volunteer survey, General Mills employees reported:

  • 98% found the experience to be meaningful
  • 63% developed new or improved skills through volunteering
  • 53% have applied lessons from their PFS experience in their professional lives

The future of Partners in Food Solutions

Africa will have 50% of the world’s population growth over the next three decades, adding 1 billion people. It is imperative that we — and others — help strengthen the food value chain across Africa, so that the African food economy can grow, contributing to the sustainability of the global food system.

Over the past several years, supply chain disruption has caused a huge strain on food companies globally. PFS, and the support it provides to hundreds of their clients, is more important than ever.

“Partners in Food Solutions represents the true goodness that General Mills is doing,” says Jeff Dykstra, co-founder and chief executive officer, Partners in Food Solutions. “The desire to make an impact has improved the lives of millions of people across the continent. [Creating Partners in Food Solutions] is not something General Mills had to do, but something General Mills chose to do, and we could not be more grateful.”

Learn more about our partnership with PFS by reading our latest Global Responsibility Report.