Acting for Racial Justice,
A Minnesota Company Deepens Its Commitment to Education Equity
Last year after the murder of George Floyd, General Mills was among many local companies that realized it had to do more. As a more than 155-year-old company, General Mills was aware of the systemic inequality that Black people face in America, and it has a long history of investing in Black communities. But if there’s one thing we learned in Minnesota last year, it’s this: Our good intentions were not enough.
So General Mills acted, publicly committing to advance racial equity by making significant investments in both its hometown and across the country. While the issue of systemic racism touches every corner of society, the company chose to focus its efforts on a few key issues where it is well-positioned to make a difference, including education.
General Mills realized that, to make a greater impact through the Box Tops for Education program, created in 1996 as a way to support K-8 schools in the U.S. and help them get what they need, the company needed a better understanding of the needs and opportunities in local schools, right in their hometown. That’s when they reached out to the Minneapolis Foundation.
“The events of 2020 made it clear that we needed to do more and invest in addressing educational inequities starting in our own backyard. We were drawn to the purposeful approach of the Minneapolis Foundation and their deep knowledge of racial equity challenges and needs particularly in the school system. We believe their immense knowledge and experience has enabled us to make an impact early on in our partnership.” — Lilly Moeding, Box Tops for Education’s brand experience manager
As one of the oldest community foundations in the nation, the Minneapolis Foundation has a decades-long track record of partnering with generous people and businesses to strengthen Minnesota’s education system. We have deepened that commitment under our Strategic Framework and Reimagine Education strategy, a collaborative initiative that transforms research into collective action to make Minnesota’s education system better for all students. As part of this work, we have engaged with hundreds of students, parents, community members, school leaders, and researchers since 2019 to better understand what is working—and what isn’t.
Members of our Impact and Philanthropic Services teams worked with the Box Tops for Education team at General Mills to select five organizations that are focused on advancing equity in Minnesota classrooms. Each organization is doing innovative work to move the needle on two issues that school and community leaders have identified as critically important: increasing the number of teachers of color, and better equipping all teachers to eliminate racial bias from classrooms.
Photos from Teach for America, Ed Allies, and the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute.
Through its Box Tops for Education program, General Mills is making grants to the following:
- The Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute helps educational leaders at all levels humanize students and communities in schools. Its grant will enable teachers and school staff from seven suburban school districts to attend an academy on antiracism at the University of Minnesota.
- EdAllies partners with schools, families, and communities to ensure that every young Minnesotan has access to a rigorous and engaging education. Its grant will help the organization advance policy goals that strengthen teacher quality and diversity.
- Innocent Classroom provides professional development that equips teachers with antiracist approaches to building relationships. Its grant will support coaching for teachers and staff at three Minneapolis middle schools.
- Teach for America Twin Cities finds and nurtures leaders who commit to expanding opportunities for low-income students, beginning with at least two years of teaching in a public school. This grant will enable the organization to recruit, train, and support 20 teacher candidates and provide professional learning on culturally responsive pedagogy in the Robbinsdale school district.
- TNTP works with a variety of partners in school systems to help them provide rigorous academics, talented teams, and a supportive environment for students. Its grant will help launch Teach Minnesota, an alternative licensure prep program to increase teacher diversity.
Through their services, policy work, and networks, these organizations are also making an impact beyond Minnesota, making them great partners for General Mills, an $18 billion global food company with around 5,000 employees in Minnesota. General Mills’ Box Tops for Education program is also partnering with Black Men Teach and investing $500,000 over the next four years to provide scholarships, loan forgiveness and programming to recruit, support and retain Black male teachers in Minneapolis area classrooms.
“The reach of General Mills and Box Tops for Education is extensive, and to have a major company invest in educational equity at a time like this is significant,” said Patrice Relerford, the Minneapolis Foundation’s Senior Director of Impact and Collective Giving. “We can’t move forward as a society without addressing these issues, and their commitment to investing in community-led solutions is inspiring.”
To learn more about Box Tops for Education and the new features on the mobile app that allow supporters to direct their earnings to schools in need, visit www.BTFE.com.