Kroger is committed to being a trusted partner in the communities where we live and work. Providing social and financial support to the communities where we operate demonstrates our desire to be a good neighbor.
We direct our charitable giving and volunteer service – at the national and local levels – on nonprofit organizations that focus on hunger relief, military service men and women and their families, health and nutrition, disaster relief efforts and more. In 2017, we introduced Kroger's Zero Hunger | Zero Waste plan, our commitment to end hunger in our communities and eliminate waste across our company by 2025.
In 2017, a total of more than $358 million was directed in Kroger's name to our communities, up from $318 million in 2016. Of this, $181 million helped end hunger where we live and work. Our giving reflects the generosity and involvement of our associates and customers, who amplify our commitment beyond our family of companies' philanthropic contributions.
At the local level, our associates collect and donate food, serve meals, walk to raise money for local initiatives, pack care packages for our soldiers, join in parades to celebrate diversity and bring time, talent and caring to make a difference in the communities we call home. Our customers also continue to show their generosity, donating to help their neighbors when they shop.
The Kroger Co. Foundation
Our spirit of giving is clearly reflected in The Kroger Co. Foundation, which was established in 1987. Our Foundation works to make a difference in the communities where we operate and beyond. We focus on supporting our communities' needs today and finding innovative solutions to help end hunger and eliminate waste tomorrow. In 2017, the Foundation directed $12.7 million to nonprofit organizations focused on ending hunger, improving food security and bringing healthy, balanced meals to families in need.
Looking forward, we plan to launch Kroger's $10 Million Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Innovation Fund in 2018. This new grant-making fund will focus on finding and funding scalable solutions to reducing food waste. Together with our community partners, we will achieve meaningful change that transforms our communities.
Supporting Military Service Men & Women
Supporting service members and their families is a priority for our company. Kroger partners with the USO, which has been keeping the nation's service members connected to family, home and country for 75 years through a wide range of programs and services. Honoring Our Heroes, Kroger's annual campaign, is our way of saying thank you to our active duty service members and our nation's 23 million veterans.
In 2017, Kroger provided $3.2 million to the USO, including a $1 million corporate donation. Coca-Cola and our generous customers and associates who contributed at check stands, purchased special gift cards to be delivered to USO centers, or donated online contributed the remaining $2.2 million. Through Honoring Our Heroes, we have directed more than $23 million to the USO – the single largest cumulative gift to the USO in its 76-year history.