CHICAGO, July 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced today it received $950,000 in donations from The Coca-Cola Company, Brinker International, Inc. and Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation. The funds will support NRAEF's various engagement programs, such as ProStart, and its mission to enhance the stature of the restaurant industry. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121203/NY22032LOGO ) "We are incredibly grateful for these generous donations from such respected partners like The Coca-Cola Company, Brinker International and Darden Restaurants," said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. "It's only through the support of our donors that we can help build a pipeline of talent and foster future leaders of the restaurant industry." The NRAEF received $450,000 from The Coca-Cola Company, the world's largest beverage company with more than 500 brands. "Coca-Cola is committed to helping shine a spotlight on the diverse careers available in the industry and to developing the talent needed to lead the restaurant industry into the future," said Carlton Curtis, vice president of Industry Affairs, Foodservice & On-Premise Division of Coca-Cola Refreshments. "We are proud to partner with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation on all its programs and efforts to enhance the stature of the restaurant industry." "Brinker is dedicated to serving the communities that are home to our restaurants throughout the United States. Through our support of the Foundation and ProStart, we are helping to feed the dreams of high school students and provide them with a pathway to the future," said Joe Taylor, vice president of Corporate Affairs for Brinker International, Inc. A leader in the casual dining industry with locations in 33 countries and two territories, Brinker International donated $250,000 to the NRAEF. Additionally, the Darden Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to the NRAEF. The Darden Foundation is the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, the world's largest full-service restaurant company, which owns and operates brands such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. "Darden stands for opportunity and fostering and creating opportunity for youth is important to us," said Bob McAdam, Darden's Senior Vice President of Government and Community Affairs. "Our support of the NRAEF and ProStart will create opportunity by enabling students to secure scholarships to continue their education and provide training opportunities for educators that are making a difference in the classroom every day." According to the National Restaurant Association, total restaurant and foodservice employment is projected to grow by 11 percent over the next 10 years. The NRAEF is committed to ensuring it supports the development of a highly-trained and professional talent pool through scholarships and educational programs such as ProStart, which brings the industry and the classroom together to give 95,000 students nationwide a platform to discover new interests and talents, while opening doors to fulfilling careers.