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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Schnuck Markets, Inc. has turned the keys of its vacant Riverdale store location here over to The Food Bank of the Mid-South, the St. Louis-based chain said yesterday.
Under an initiative called "Operation Open Door," the food bank will use the 68,000-square-foot facility as a food collection and distribution site. Schnucks will jump start the project with $100,000 in shelf-stable food items and $25,000 in gift cards. Schnuck executives yesterday helped food bank volunteers prepare the store to receive goods once again, and food was delivered in three loads driven by volunteer Teamsters from Local 610.
Scott Schnuck, the chain's president and c.o.o., said the idea to use Riverdale as a collection site came from a meeting of the company's own hurricane relief task force. "My brother Craig and I are heading up a company task force which has been convening since the crisis began. Right now we are mobilizing our resources to deliver help where it is most needed and by the most direct route possible. Temporarily reopening Riverdale will greatly increase the food bank's ability to collect and distribute food from a variety of sources," Schnuck said.
"Through the food bank, the facility is prepared to accept shelf-stable food items from all donors, starting with $100,000 in product from our warehouses," added Jerry Beck, Schnucks' director of marketing and merchandising in the Mid-South, and also a board member of the food bank. "In addition, Schnuck gift cards will provide the food bank a more immediate means of delivering food to families in need."
This comes at just the right time, according to Susan Sanford, executive director of the food bank. "Right now, our food quantities are extremely low, as we struggle to feed more than 10,000 evacuees over and above our normal community needs," she said. "Having a central site for donations will increase our effectiveness in assisting local families housing evacuees during this time of crisis."
Because Schnucks operates its own warehouse and central transportation department, the company will add Riverdale to current driver routes. It will also help staff the store, on a temporary basis, with workers who have specialized skills and are trained in moving product in bulk and operating hydraulic hand jacks and other compact equipment.
The company will track product donations using the same computer systems that control product inventories and logistics operations throughout the company. "Our technology will make it easy for us to control the transfer of product from our Bridgeton, Mo. warehouses to Riverdale without affecting the flow of product to customers in our stores," said Bob Drury, Schnucks s.v.p. of logistics, IT and manufacturing. "It will also provide a framework for tracking products donated by vendors or other contributors."
Drury says company partners are already responding to calls for assistance. "Sprint, a partner in our Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) program, will provide wireless data services that will allow us to communicate between Bridgeton and Riverdale to record and confirm product movement," he said. "Two of our warehouse staff members will be dispatched to the area to set the system up properly and train volunteers as needed."
The facility was a year old when Schnucks acquired it in 2002 from Albertson's; the company closed the store in March of 2003. Of the latest initiative, Craig Schnuck added, "At the outset of this crisis, we made an immediate contribution of cash and product, but today is evidence that we are committed to supporting our communities for as long as our assistance is needed. After all, the Riverdale effort is about feeding people – that's what Schnucks does best."