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Among the “greater good” initiatives by grocery retailers are community outreach efforts that boost hunger, wellness, education and other initiatives through donations of money, product and manpower. These efforts have the mutual benefit of strengthening communities and inspiring shopper loyalty among consumers.
Among its regional operations, The Kroger Co. Central Division will spend nearly $5 million through 2016 as part of its second three-year plan to strengthen K-12 education, as reported in February by The Indianapolis Star. The initiative includes $300,000 to be spent on scholarships, basic needs, teacher training and volunteer hours during the next three years as part of Kroger’s 29-year partnership with the Daniel Webster Family Academy, also known as Indianapolis Public School 46. “The quality of the students that the school produces defines our future workforce,” says John Elliott, Kroger public affairs manager.
In addition to the numerous causes supported by its philanthropic foundation, Safeway participates in the eScrip program, which enables consumers to direct a percentage of their grocery purchases to be donated to the school of their choice; the grocer asks that schools allocate 20 percent of its contributions to nutrition and fitness programs.
Big Y’s fourth annual “Sack Hunger/Care to Share” program brought nearly 16,000 bags of food to area charities over two months at the end of 2013, during which time shoppers bought $10 Sack Hunger bags of groceries that made their way via food banks to local soup kitchens, food pantries, senior food programs, day care centers and other agencies.
“We are grateful to our customers who helped to support our friends and neighbors in need,” says Charles L. D’Amour, president and COO of Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y, which operates 61 stores throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Additionally, Big Y has contributed $40,000 to its local American Red Cross chapters to aid ongoing relief efforts in communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia.
In Texas, Brookshire Grocery Co.’s 32nd Annual Spirit of Christmas Food Drive provided 20,000 boxes of food, 30,000 grab bags and raised $40,000 for families in need at the end of last year. “In the midst of our busiest season of the year, our store teams and customers assisted some 18,000 needy families,” says BGC President and CEO Rick Rayford, “making Christmas brighter for many.”
Meanwhile, last December, Publix Super Markets Inc. made a $25,000 donation to Food For All, a nonprofit charitable organization, as part of the grocer’s “Sprinkle Joy” holiday campaign. The donation will help five nonprofits in Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix’s geographic footprint, in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
The Facebook-based Sprinkle Joy asked consumers to make virtual holiday cookies as a way to bring people together during the holiday season. With each cookie decorated by program participants, the virtual cookie jar filled up, thereby unlocking a charitable gift. “We wanted the joy and service our customer experience in our stores to be extended to our online social platforms and communities we serve,” says Maria Brous, Publix’s director of media and community relations. “Inviting our customers to give back and make a difference to those in most need has been the most rewarding experience.”
Several retailers, including Ahold, A&P/Pathmark, Dave’s Marketplace, Sweetbay Supermarket, United Supermarkets and Harveys, participate in Take a Bite Out of Hunger, created in 2013 by Yakima, Wash.-based FirstFruits Marketing to help feed the underserved while raising awareness of food insecurity by partnering with retailers to make fresh apple donations to local food banks.
“This program complements our long-standing commitment to be a better neighbor in all of the communities in which we operate,” says Chris Keetch, Ahold USA produce category manager. “As a food retailer, the fight against hunger is a cause for which we mobilize all possible resources.”
For East Greenwich, R.I.-based Dave’s Supermarkets, Take a Bite Out of Hunger complements its overall charitable giving, which includes hundreds of donations to local schools, religious organizations, food pantries and other nonprofits. Last year, Dave’s donated more than four tons of food local food banks, including 22,000 pounds of apples through the Take a Bite program; and its employees donated 400 hours of community service.
“Being able to participate in a program such as this provides tangible help to those in need in our community and made up a good portion of the fresh produce we donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank,” says Charley DiMascio, director of produce at Dave’s Marketplace.
Berkeley, Calif.-based chain Grocery Outlet has donated more than 150,000 pound of apples since joining the program in 2010. “Our store owners/operators embrace the program and we all agree that it is very rewarding to give back to the community through this program,” says Don Murphy, Grocery Outlet’s director of produce and floral.
BJ’s Wholesale Club surprised three military families in the Fort Bragg, N.C., area by ensuring the holiday of their dreams, courtesy of the retailer’s club in Fayetteville, N.C.
Identified through the local USO, the families were invited to BJ’s for an exclusive confab with Santa Claus himself and free memberships. As the families shared their holiday wishes with Jolly St. Nick, BJ’s “elves” searched the club to find the requested gifts. When the families left the club, the items were ready for them to take home.
“BJ’s Wholesale Club has been truly inspired by the acts of kindness this holiday season, and we wanted to contribute,” says Laura Sen, CEO of the Westborough, Mass.-based retailer, which operates 201 clubs and 114 gas stations in 15 eastern states. “Throughout the year, BJ’s is dedicated to the communities we serve and thought this was the perfect way to spread additional holiday joy, while at the same time honor[ing] some of our brave military families.”
Among the most recent outreach efforts by Iowa-based grocery chain Hy-Vee Inc. are donations from its store in Topeka, Kan., to Operation Comfort Warriors, a program that gives comfort items like books and games to wounded, injured or ill military personnel; and Harvesters Community Food Network, a clearinghouse of food and related household products for the needy. “We firmly believe in giving back to our community,” says Jesse Thorson, Topeka store director.
Hy-Vee also sponsors a high school “athlete of the week” award through the NBC-TV affiliate in Kansas City, Mo.