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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As part of the nationwide observation of Hunger Awareness Day today, the Minnesota Grocers Association here has partnered with Hunger Solutions Minnesota (HSM) in a $10-a-bag project.
Stores across the state, among them Stillwater-based Cub Foods, St. Cloud-based Coborns, and Waconia-based MacKenthun's County Market, have joined in this cooperative venture. Participating stores are prepackaging specific groceries for their local food shelf, which shoppers can buy for $10 each. At each participating store, a liaison has been established between the local food shelf and the grocer, so that the grocer knows which products the food shelf needs, and the food shelf knows when to pick them up so that nothing has to be stored.
"It's a win-win situation," Paul W. Gifford, HSM business and operations consultant, told PG. "The grocer gets a nice $10 ring and the food bank gets exactly what it needs for hunger relief."
According to Colleen Moriarty, executive director of HSM in Arden Hills, the collaboration between her charity and the Minnesota Grocers Association was inevitable. "We've worked together for a long time," she told Progressive Grocer, pointing out that a staff member of HSM is a former grocer and that the two organizations often join up to lobby the state government on issues of mutual interest. The idea of the $10-a-bag project partnership first took shape during a trade show about six months ago, she added. Moriarty referred to the initiative as "a very personal way of meeting a need in the community, and it just makes sense."
Among other hunger-related projects taking place to mark the day, Cub Foods, starting at 11:00 a.m., will try to set the record for the world's largest pineapple display at its store in Stillwater. Built in the shape of a pyramid and containing almost 14 tons of pineapple, the display, when competed, will measure 20 feet at its base on four sides and reach a height of nearly 20 feet. In the afternoon, Cub will donate a truckload of 8,400 pineapples -- a retail value of more than $33,000, as well as the exact amount of the fruit it took to construct the pyramid -- to Maplewood-based Second Harvest Heartland food bank for hunger relief. Cub is the single largest corporate donor to Second Harvest Heartland.
The display, designed and erected by employees, will remain up at least one day. Cub spokesman Chris Murphy told PG that the idea was born as a way "to get attention for Hunger Awareness Day and generate media attention." Murphy added that the pyramid was "fun for customers to come in and see, and fun from a media standpoint as a great visual, and the combination of those two things, for a great cause," was what made the event really special. He noted, "For Cub, hunger awareness is one of the causes that we really get behind."
According to HSM, the incidence of hunger is rising in the state. In the past four years, food shelves have experienced an average 10 percent increase in clients each year. Altogether, this means a 43 percent jump in usage.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt