In 1873 Oscar F. Mayer immigrated to the United States from Germany with the dream of opening his own butcher shop. Ten years later on the north side of Chicago his dream was realized. From that day in 1883 until the sale of Oscar Mayer & Company in 1981 to General Foods Corporation (now a part of Kraft Foods), four generations of Mayers led and directed the growth and prosperity of this successful family enterprise.
Through the foresight and wisdom of Oscar G. Mayer, the son of Oscar F. Mayer, the Oscar G. & Elsa S. Mayer Family Foundation was established in 1965. While the focus and emphasis of the Foundation's activities can change to reflect issues and concerns of the day, the Board endeavors to use the philosophy of this great man, and the values used to establish and grow a successful company, to direct its grant-making activities. In order to gain maximum impact the Foundation will direct its attention on a few fields of activity and on certain priorities within those fields. Our selections will be subject to change, as we learn from our grant-making experience. Of major interest are programs which promote those skills and activities of society leading to a happier, healthier, and more productive life. While the Foundation enjoys a rich heritage of focusing support toward agencies in Chicago, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Midwest, worthy organizations in other geographical areas having projects or programs that align with our current focus can be considered.
The core mission of the Oscar G. & Elsa S. Mayer Family Foundation is to promote and achieve school readiness, and to foster continued development, among at risk children from conception through third grade. To accomplish this objective we fund direct services, advocacy, research and the development of professional and parental skills to enhance early childhood care and education and to maintain childhood health and well-being. We focus both on activities that positively impact young children and their families, as well as on the development of young children and their families and the organizations and systems that deliver these services.
Vision, Mission and Goals
Our Vision is a society that maximizes the potential of its members by providing quality, healthy environments for all children, from the earliest moments of their lives, in which they can develop their full capacities for contributions to that society.
Our Mission is to promote the development and health of children in early childhood, that is, from conception to kindergarten.
Our Goal is to make the most productive possible use of our funds within the realm of our strategic focus on early childhood services.
Our Strategy is to fund early childhood services as the avenue of philanthropic investment that offers the largest available return in the form of benefits to society.
Our Tactic is to award grants for direct services, research and advocacy that achieve the outcome of school readiness for young at-risk children and that support their families to that end.
Our Beliefs include the following points:
A child’s greatest brain development and greatest opportunity for cognitive and social growth occur between conception and kindergarten.
The years when society provides the least public investment in educational services for its children are also between conception and kindergarten.
Considering the extent of the need, investments in such services are a matter of public policy and should be primarily a matter of public responsibility.
The benefit to society of investments in direct services to children in those years is between four and seventeen times the amounts of those investments.
The link between the quality of direct services in early childhood and the benefits derived by the children who receive them is positive and durable.
The return on an investment in advancing public policy is potentially many times the return on an investment in direct services, but with far less certainty.
The greatest need for early childhood services exists among (in socioeconomic terms) at-risk children who lack access to necessary early childhood services and who, consequently, are less well-prepared for school than their age peers who have thrived from those services. These children run the greatest risk of experiencing the so-called achievement gap.
The need for services to at-risk children includes the need for support for their families and their communities.
The scope of need extends not only to education, but also to health services and to social and emotional support, and it includes prenatal and even pre-parental services.
In Summary, our Family Foundation provides early childhood grants that prepare at-risk children, from conception to kindergarten, to thrive in school and to succeed in life.