Chick-fil-A’s foundation shifts away from controversy

The chicken sandwich chain’s charitable arm has shifted its spending priorities and will not fund controversial groups next year.
Photograph courtesy of Chick-fil-A

The Chick-fil-A Foundation announced its giving priorities for the next year Monday, and the list is notable for what is not on it.

The company announced a $9 million commitment to initiatives focused on improving education and fighting homelessness and hunger. Groups to get donations will include Junior Achievement (JA) USA and Covenant House International along with donations to local food banks.

The foundation does not list either the Salvation Army or Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two groups that critics say have anti-LGBTQ agendas. Past donations to those groups helped reignite controversy over the chain’s stance on gay marriage. The company had already stopped making donations to a third group, the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

That controversy has had an impact on the company. It lost a location at the airport in Buffalo, N.Y., and created a dispute in Texas after the San Antonio City Council blocked a location in the airport there. A landlord in the United Kingdom said the chain’s test location there will not get a new lease after six months.

There have been protests at locations in California and Toronto.

In a release, the Chick-fil-A Foundation said that it would end its practice of making multiyear donation commitments “and will reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact.”

The foundation’s donations will go to both faith-based and non-faith-based charities, the company said. The Chick-fil-A Foundation will continue to provide scholarships for employees and invest in community revitalization efforts in its hometown of Atlanta. The foundation said it would provide about $32 million in cash gifts next year.

Covenant House is a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support for youth facing homelessness. It counts several large companies, including Delta Air Lines and JP Morgan Chase, among its supporters.

“The young people we serve are usually disconnected from their families and other social support, and we are committed to helping them all overcome hunger and homelessness,” said Kevin Ryan, CEO of Covenant House, in a statement.

Jack Kosakowski, CEO of JA USA, said Chick-fil-A “has been a dedicated supporter of JA programs for many years.”

Chick-fil-A will donate $25,000 to a local food bank at the opening of each new restaurant, promising support to more than 120 communities. Kyle Waide, CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said $25,000 would provide up to 100,000 meals to people in need.

Criticism of Chick-fil-A’s political views has appeared periodically for years since comments made by CEO Dan Cathy to a Christian publication in which he spoke out against gay marriage. Cathy later vowed to “shut up” about the controversy. After it reemerged earlier this year, the company argued that its donations were targeted toward children’s programs.

The controversy hasn’t dented the chain’s sales, however. It has more than doubled in size since 2013 and is now the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S. behind McDonald’s and Starbucks.

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