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It’s On Me.


While volunteering at one of the Trussell Trust foodbanks in London during my Time2Give, I met a young father. He told me he often goes without food so that his children can eat.

Before that moment, I had naively believed that food poverty did not really exist in the U.K.

This was my fourth year participating in some capacity in the Sleep Out.
Shraddha (center) volunteering with the Trussell Trust.

When I got home, I did some research and discovered two astounding facts:

  • One in three children lives in poverty in the U.K. That equates to 4.1 million.
  • UNICEF estimates that 2.5 million British children, or 19 percent, live in households where food is scarce.

In the U.K., hunger and poverty represent a crisis not only among children but across all generations. And, sadly, this is not just a U.K. issue, it’s a global issue.

Around the world, there are 821.6 million people who are chronically undernourished, including 513.9 million in Asia, 239.1 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 34.7 million in Latin America.

I knew that Cisco already partnered with the World Food Programme, but I could not get those figures out of my mind. I spent the next few days thinking of a way that we could address this topic.

I was sure we could come up with a solution that could help provide those who go without meals, especially those that are most vulnerable.

My leaders suggested I connect with my colleague, Erin Johnson, to find an idea that would allow Cisco employees to reduce poverty around the globe. Erin agreed to help, and we met weekly over Cisco Webex. Instantly, this became our passion project.

We came up with the simple idea of “pay it forward” meals. An employee could buy a meal for someone else while purchasing their own, with the intention of that meal being distributed to someone later. What was not to love?

The concept of paying a meal forward is not new. Several coffee chains and restaurants offer this across the globe. They often cost as little as a takeaway coffee or cake, yet it has a significant impact on those who need a hot meal the most.

This got us thinking: Surely, we could leverage our Cisco campus cafes to bring this to life.

Erin and I shared the idea of Café Giving with other individuals within our networks. We quickly formed a dynamic team from Bright Funds, WPR, IT, CSR, and Corporate Affairs.

We met weekly with two purposes: Make a difference for those who struggle with food poverty, and bring Café Giving to life at Cisco. Together, we started working on a proof of concept that we would try out.

This was my fourth year participating in some capacity in the Sleep Out.
Café Giving’s “It’s On Me” live in Building 17 at the end of last year.

Between November 12 and December 13 at San Jose’s Building 17 café, employees were encouraged to help someone at a local HomeFirst shelter by purchasing a “Meal for the Community.”

The extra meal cost was $5, which went directly to HomeFirst to fund meal services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in Santa Clara County.

Within the first three weeks of the trial, 50 meals were purchased. By the end of the trial, $435 was raised — 87 meals were served to folks in need.

The project team was dedicated to bringing Café Giving to life. It has been tough at times, but through a dynamic team of passionate and dedicated individuals, we’ve been able to pull it off.

We’re looking to expand the campaign and launch it in the U.K. — where the original idea was born. It’s also possible we’ll bring this to more Cisco cafes around the world in 2020.

Each Cisco location can choose a charity for support, focusing on homelessness or food scarcity. Bright Funds will match donations to amplify our impact globally.

One of the many things I love about Cisco is the care and passion people have to make a difference in their communities. I’m grateful for our strong culture of giving back and the empowerment we share to make a difference in so many ways.

Together, we can make a difference to tackle hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

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