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    Grocers in Calif. Pitch In with Wildfire Relief

    SAN DIEGO - Grocers serving communities in Southern California affected by wildfires that have scorched at least 679 square miles and destroyed almost 1,600 structures, are pitching with relief such as donated food and supplies - and even carrots for errant horses.

    SAN DIEGO - Grocers serving communities in Southern California affected by wildfires that have scorched at least 679 square miles and destroyed almost 1,600 structures, are pitching with relief such as donated food and supplies - and even carrots for errant horses.

    Safeway, Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., which had to close four of its stores here earlier this week due to area evacuations, has been delivering food, water, and other needed supplies to evacuees at the Qualcomm stadium here. The retailer even supplied pet food for evacuees' animal companions.

    "When the fires broke out we immediately called the Office of Emergency Services to see how we could help," Brian Dowling, Safeway spokesman, told Progressive Grocer. "We'll be expanding our relief effort with a cash donation to the American Red Cross and other groups as it becomes clearer what is needed."

    Supervalu-owned Albertsons, which also had to close some stores in the area, opened its doors to relief workers as soon as it was safe.

    "We told them to just come in and take what they needed," Lilia Rodriguez, public affairs manager told Progressive Grocer. "We also donated hundreds of pounds of food, including baby food, fruit, and granola bars to those in the area who needed it.

    Like Safeway, Albertsons also took care of animals impacted by the fires, and for Albertsons that included horses. "Someone came by with 10 horses from various homes on the way to an equestrian facility," said Rodriguez. "So we fed them with 10 five-pound bags of carrots."

    The Supervalu foundation pledged $100,000 to the American Red Cross, and is allowing customers to donate through the Food For All foundation.

    Kroger-owned grocery chains Ralphs and Food 4 Less said by yesterday they had provided donations of food, water, and other supplies to the firefighters battling the blazes, as well as the American Red Cross and other support agencies, valued at more than $150,000. In addition, the company's nonprofit arm, The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation, has committed $200,000 to the American Red Cross Wildfire Relief Fund.

    The chains said specific donations included:
    -- A $200,000 grant from The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation to the American Red Cross 2007 Southern California Wildfire Relief Fund.
    -- A truckload of food, infant formula, milk, fruit, diapers, and toothbrushes and toothpaste to Qualcomm Stadium evacuation center in San Diego.
    -- A truckload of water, cereal, health care products, and paper goods for evacuees at Del Mar Fairgrounds.
    -- A truckload of water and paper goods to fire victims at Orange Show Fairgrounds in San Bernardino.
    -- A truckload of produce, milk, water, and sandwiches to various Temecula and Murrieta evacuation centers.
    -- Product donations for various high schools and other evacuation centers in fire affected areas, including Orange County, Malibu, Santa Clarita and San Diego.
    -- Immediate in-kind donations by local Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores to centers as needs arise.

    Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores also are accepting customer and associate donations for the American Red Cross.

    Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart Supermarkets said it would begin accepting donations to the American Red Cross at all its Northern California Save Mart, Lucky, S-Mart Foods, and Food Maxx stores to help with Southern California wildfire relief efforts.

    Target said it had committed donations totaling $1 million. The Minneapolis-based chain said its efforts included financial support to both the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, and large-scale donations of relief supplies such as non-perishable food, water, air mattresses, chairs, and pillows.

    "Our top concern is the safety of our team members and guests," said the chain in a release. "We are working with our stores to ensure that team members have the assistance and resources that they need. As of Thursday morning, five stores remained closed. We are actively working to reopen all of our stores so that we are there for our Southern California guests during this difficult time."

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