AISLE CHATTER

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at karen@foodtradenews.com.

It’s November, a holiday month when the spotlight is put on not only being thankful for the different blessings in our lives, but also when the emphasis is placed on sharing and giving back to those not as fortunate as us. Although more often than not our industry can be very competitive, sometimes when there is a cause that is charitable in nature, companies can put aside their differences to collaborate for the greater good.

One of the most outstanding examples that comes to mind is a gesture made by Kroger. Last month, the Cincinnati, OH-based grocery chain donated a building in Memphis, TN at no cost to regional competitor Superlo Foods. Why, you ask, would they give an empty store to a rival grocer? The reason behind the move can be viewed as altruistic. According to an article in Newsweek, when Kroger closed a supermarket in the Orange Mound neighborhood of the southern city in February, there was an outcry by locals who feared that they would not have any food shopping alternatives. As the retailer struggled to find a tenant for the $500,000 location and after the results of a feasibility study area showed that profit margins in the community were lower than a traditional store could survive on, Kroger chose to donate the space to Superlo in order to prevent the area from becoming a food desert. This is not the first time Kroger has implemented initiatives to combat food deserts. Earlier this year, the supermarket giant partnered with Louisville, KY food bank and non-profit, Dare To Care, to bring the Zero Hunger Mobile Market (essentially a 50 foot grocery store on wheels) to neighborhoods that otherwise don’t have access to a traditional supermarket. Even before that, its Milwaukee, WI subsidiary, Pick ‘n Save, collaborated with the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force to offer a moving grocery truck called Milwaukee’s Fresh Picks Mobile Market. Kudos to Kroger for being so proactive in its fight to address food insecurity!

A noble cause can be the impetus for business rivals to put aside their differences to support a tremendous community need. The Maryland Food Bank (MFB), which celebrated 40 years of leading the fight against food insecurity by launching a 40-week statewide campaign this year to highlight why “It Takes More Food To End Hunger,” is one such crusade. Retailers and food manufacturers from all over the region showed their support by sponsoring the anniversary campaign, which culminated in a celebratory Blue Jeans Ball last month. This special event, which had around 375 guests in attendance for the invite only fête, not only celebrated its supporters but gave guests the opportunity to learn about the food bank’s mission of feeding people, strengthening communities, and ending hunger for all Marylanders. Recognized for their contributions to this year’s special birthday campaign were area retailers and food manufacturers, including lead sponsors (each of which had contributed $250,000 or more towards MFB’s 40th anniversary) Giant Food, McCormick and Perdue (Jim and Jan Perdue also served as honorary co-chairs for the campaign). Other generous sponsors from the grocery industry included Weis Markets ($100,000+), the Safeway Foundation and Wegmans (over $40,000 each), Shoprite Partners In Caring ($30,000+), and Harris Teeter ($10,000+). In total, the nearly year long campaign raised more than $2 million to fund new and evolving initiatives as part of MFB 2.0, the food bank’s five-year plan. I really must applaud the supermarkets and food brands in this area for the great amount that it invests in its community by rallying around such an impactful organization. Not only do they give monetarily and through food donations, but they also help by bringing their associates in to volunteer so that they can help organize and distribute the donated items.

Advertisement

Also celebrating 40 years with a Blue Jeans Ball was the Capital Area Food Bank. The event featured food and drink stations from more than 40 area restaurants and there were more than 600 guests in attendance. The annual denim-themed soiree, which seems to get better each year, raised a total of $750,000 – that is a record amount by six figures plus! It’s a must-attend event if you’re in the area, giving guests the opportunity to sample light fare and cocktails from some of the best restaurants that metro DC has to offer and all while supporting an amazing cause.

Sprouts Farmers Markets is doing its part to give back as well. The Sprouts Healthy Community Foundation, which focuses on empowering individuals (particularly children) to live healthier lives by supporting programs which teach nutrition education and increases access to fresh nutritious food, announced $3 million in donations early last month supporting these initiatives. This year, it will award 118 neighborhood grants (which support grassroots children’s nutrition education programs) totaling $725,000 to nonprofit organizations across the U.S. Recipients of these grants, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, include programs in Sprouts’ new markets in Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia. The foundation also committed to multi-year, high-impact grants designed to help organizations scale established programs and develop and share best-practices in the areas of student nutritional curricula, and school and community gardening. Additional foundation support is allocated across markets to health and wellness related causes, as well as Vitamin Angels, which delivers life-saving vitamins and nutrients to at-risk populations around the world.

“Each year, our network of nonprofit partners continues to grow and our work in local communities continues to deepen,” said Lyndsey Waugh, executive director of the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. “As a result, children and their families have greater exposure to nutrition education and hands-on cooking and gardening programs in their schools and community centers, and urban farms are increasing access to fresh, nutritious produce in food desert communities.”

Advertisement

In tandem with this year’s numerous community donations, Sprouts and the Foundation will host its second annual Day of Service on Saturday, November 9 in which hundreds of team members will participate in 40 volunteer events from coast to coast.

“Central to Sprouts’ identity is giving back to the communities we operate in, and the Day of Service gives team members the opportunity to engage with the organizations the Foundation supports firsthand,” stated Waugh.

Finally, I know I mentioned this last month in my column, but please don’t forget about Safeway’s Feast of Sharing – it’s a remarkable event that provides not only a holiday meal to those in need, but also much needed health screenings and warm clothing for the cold winter season that is ahead of us. You can get more details on how you can volunteer or contribute by going to the website at https://www.safeway.com/feastofsharing.html.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving – may both your bellies and hearts be full!

Until next month…

Karen can be contacted via email at karen@foodtradenews.com