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Even in the midst of a palpable economic downturn, two leading supermarket chains are in the spotlight for spearheading efforts to help needy citizens in the communities in which they operate.
Customers and associates of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co.’s family of stores donated $10.6 million to support The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign during the 2008 holiday season, which represents an impressive 13 percent increase over last year’s $9.4 million raised at Kroger locations.
Meanwhile, Wegmans Markets’ stores throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland that participated in “Check Out Hunger” relief efforts benefiting local food banks netted a 14.6 percent increase over last year, with a record-setting $1.4 million raised during the winter anti-hunger campaign that concluded Feb. 28.
For its part, Kroger’s stores in 31 states helped The Salvation Army see a record total $130 million in donations nationwide in 2008, 8 percent of which was raised via traditional holiday kettles placed in the supermarkets’ entryways. Kettles were staffed by Salvation Army volunteers, including many Kroger associates. The Salvation Army estimates that 25,000 bell ringers participate in the Red Kettle campaign annually. Customers also were able to contribute via virtual Red Kettles through Kroger's holiday Web site.
The outstanding results of Wegmans’ Check Out Hunger initiative -- which enables shoppers to donate $2, $3, or $5 at checkout, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to each store's designated local food bank -- “tell a wonderful story,” said Linda Lovejoy, Wegmans’ community relations manager. “Our customers and employees know that tough times mean that more people turn to food banks for help in feeding their families. They want their neighbors to get through this downturn without going hungry, so they’ve responded with a deeply generous spirit, giving even more than last year.”
Beneficiaries of the 72-store, Rochester, N.Y.-based regional retailers’ funds include the Food Bank of Western New York; the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, serving Harrisburg and Williamsport, Pa.; and the Food Bank of Maryland in Hunt Valley. In addition to the winter proceeds noted above, Wegmans’ 2008 fall hunger relief campaign, held at New Jersey, Virginia, and some eastern Pennsylvania stores, raised $539,648, bringing the combined total raised by the grocer in the last year to $2,033,863.
Since the advent of Check Out Hunger and other, similar programs in 1993, Wegmans has raised over $14.5 million to battle hunger. In addition to this money for emergency food services, the company also donated over 16 million pounds of food in 2008 to local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens.