Awash in swelling profits, Cargill has unveiled its largest single gift to charity, a $13 million pledge to help some of the world's poorest people.

The donation, to be distributed over five years, will fund efforts of the international humanitarian group CARE to help 100,000 people in rural areas, Cargill said. Some of the money will go to fund research at a Stanford University think tank that studies global hunger.

"We, like CARE, believe an investment in small farmers that increases their capacities to lift themselves out of poverty long before a food crisis occurs is the best strategy to help agriculturally dependent communities," Greg Page, Cargill's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The company's earnings last year set a record of $2.34 billion. The company plans to send more than $40 million to charity this year, it said, or about 1.7 percent of its pretax earnings.

The aid comes at a particularly needed time. A global food crisis has driven the cost of staples such as wheat, rice and palm oil to record highs, threatening to push millions of people closer to starvation while aid agencies and governments scramble for a solution.

Cargill said its grant to CARE will go for training, education and market access for farmers in countries where Cargill and CARE both have a presence, including India, Brazil, Ghana, Honduras, Guatemala and Ivory Coast.

The company also plans to donate $3 million over five years to Stanford University's Program on Food Security and the Environment, a new program that studies global hunger and environmental damage from agricultural practices.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329