Back when Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley played baseball for Belmont University, he and a few teammates would take food almost every week to homeless people living in downtown Nashville.
"It was no organization, just us trying to help," says Kelley, 28. "Even a college student can buy five cheeseburgers for five bucks — that's five meals right there."
Now part of a top-selling country duo, Kelley will help with a lot more meals this year. With musical partner Tyler Hubbard, Florida Georgia Line is the face of the third annual Outnumber Hunger campaign, their image adorning boxes of Cheerios and other General Mills products with codes that can be entered online to provide money to food banks.
Before coming to Nashville and making Cruise the most downloaded country single in history, Kelley and Hubbard grew up on opposite sides of the Florida-Georgia border — Kelley in tony Ormond Beach, Fla., and Hubbard in Monroe, Ga., a former cotton town an hour east of Atlanta. Hubbard remembers getting his first look at America's hunger problem in elementary school.
"When I was in the public-school system, it was pretty obvious that half the kids were on food stamps," says Hubbard, 27. "I didn't go home with them, so I couldn't tell how much they ate. But it was definitely an issue. And it shouldn't really have been."
Outnumber Hunger may give Hubbard and Kelley a higher profile in the fight against hunger, but it's not the first work they've done for the cause. For the past two years, Florida Georgia Line has played a benefit concert for a local food bank at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. They'll do it again in June. They've also donated instruments to the Hard Rock Cafe in exchange for a donation to the food bank.
As for their musical career, Florida Georgia Line has just begun recording the follow-up to the duo's platinum-selling debut album, Here's to the Good Times. Meanwhile, This Is How We Roll, a duet with Luke Bryan, is climbing the country charts. Soon, they'll take their This Is How We Roll Summer Series 2014 to baseball parks across the Southeast and Midwest. The tour, which features rapper Nelly as special guest and country singer Chris Lane as the opening act, kicks off May 30 in Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., home of the Northwest Arkanas Nationals.
Hubbard sees the duo's charitable efforts as a matter of simply paying forward the help others have given him.
"I remember my truck breaking down one time when we were dead broke," he says. "I needed, like, $1,300 to fix it, and I didn't have any money. Craig Wiseman, our publisher, called me and said, 'You need to be writing songs, not lying under your truck,' and he paid to get it fixed. It's hard for us to get burned out doing something that helps others when we look around and see what everybody's doing for us."
The Outnumber Hunger concert will air on WFAA Friday night at 7 p.m. It will also stream live on WFAA.com. Go here for more information.