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    What Works: ShopRite, Thinking On the Box

    ELIZABETH, N.J.--For ShopRite supermarkets, a division of Wakefern Food Corp. here, success in its Partners In Caring program has come not from thinking outside the box, but right on it.

    ELIZABETH, N.J.--For ShopRite supermarkets, a division of Wakefern Food Corp. here, success in its Partners In Caring program has come not from thinking outside the box, but right on it.

    The hunger-fighting initiative, which launched in September 1999 and is still going strong, uses a particularly creative way of motivating employees -- the natural desire everyone has for a little positive recognition.

    That's where General Mills comes in. The Minneapolis-based food giant has partnered with ShopRite to develop a custom-box program, in which teams of associates compete to appear on the back panel of a specially printed box of Cheerios.

    Associates vie for the opportunity to appear on the box by participating in individual hunger-awareness activities, including in-store fundraising of associate and customer donations, according to program spokeswoman Karen Meleta. Activities are focused on the first Thursday in June, which is Hunger Awareness Day, although ShopRite has stretched the observation into a weeklong event. The boxes come out in early November.

    The top 25 stores in the hunger-awareness effort get to put two employees each on the cereal box; the No. 1-performing store is allowed to select three associates for the photo. Teams pick their cover representatives in different ways, says Meleta, but the chosen ones are always employees, not management.

    The side panel of each customized box tells the Partners In Caring story, explains Meleta.

    The customized boxes are merchandised exclusively at ShopRite stores. According to Meleta, their arrival in stores are big local events, with food bank representatives invited to take part in official ceremonies and town mayors on hand to deliver proclamations.

    This year marks the fourth custom box for General Mills and ShopRite, and the third for the flagship Cheerios product (the first year featured a customized Team Cheerios box).

    Since the inception of the Partners In Caring program, ShopRite has raised a total of $9 million. The program also includes a Kraft promotion featuring current and former New York Jets at various hunger-awareness events, and education resource materials for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.

    "Partners In Caring has made a huge difference," notes Meleta. "We're committed to keep it going."

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