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A ShopRite in store New London, Conn., is enabling the fish and invertebrates at the nearby Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration in the same state to consume a varied diet of fruit and vegetables at a considerably lower cost than last year, as a result of an unusual partnership between the aquarium and ShopRite that benefits both parties, as well as the animals and environment.
Each week, the aquarium's staff receives 50 to 75 pounds of "culled" produce from the store for its resident fish and invertebrates, which subsist on a diet of mainly fruits and vegetables. The donated produce has begun to change color or is bruised, so is unappealing to customers, but is still edible and has nutritional value. The arrangement will not only save the aquarium about $16,000 annually, but also allows the store to reduce its waste stream and save money in dumpster transportation fees.
"This partnership is a prime example of what can be accomplished when community members with a common interest come together," noted Peter Glankoff, SVP of marketing and public affairs at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, divisions of Sea Research Foundation.
The partnership began when Don Harrington, interim director of fish and invertebrates at the aquarium, in search of less expensive options for the animals' food, recalled his teenage years working at a fruit stand, where he watched many pounds of produce get thrown out when it was past its prime.
After Harrington discussed the problem with Glankoff, the SVP called Steve Perrelli, general manager of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southeastern New England, Inc. and a member of the aquarium's Board of Trustees. For the past few years, Perrelli has worked extensively with the aquarium to create and execute strategic co-operative marketing programs with local grocery stores. Perrelli put the aquarium in touch with Ken Capano Jr., VP of the New London and Norwich, Conn., ShopRite stores, which are part of the Wakefern Food Corp., a Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer-owned cooperative comprising 45 member companies operating stores in seven Mid-Atlantic states under the ShopRite banner.
"We were happy to help," said Capano. "Supporting local organizations and businesses -- especially those like the aquarium, who give so much back to the community -- is always a priority for ShopRite."