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The company's initiative to distribute leftover items now includes 14 food banks.
Photo courtesy of Feeding America Southwest Virginia
Kroger employee Randall Richmond sorts unsold, nonperishable goods at Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem. In only a year’s time Kroger’s program to distribute unsold food to needy people has seen a large expansion.
Friday, September 27, 2013
In a year’s time, a Kroger program to directly distribute unsold, non perishable goods to food banks has grown to include 14 food banks across the country.
The grocery chain initially distributed the goods only to Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem and the Cincinnati-based Freestore Food Bank.
Kroger officials say that the program was so efficient that another 12 food banks have been added, and that more than eight million items worth more than $14.3 million have been sent directly to the food banks.
Feeding America Southwest Virginia is processing the goods out of its Salem distribution center for all the food banks.
Kroger equipped the Salem food bank with software and hardware to process and track goods from the 120 stores in the Kroger Mid-Atlantic region. It also pays for a supervisor to oversee the process at the Salem distribution center.
The grocery store donates its unsold nonperishable goods, using the same level of supply chain management that the company uses with its existing perishable donation program across its 2,400 stores, Oscar Fussenegger , corporate reclamation manager for Kroger, said in a news release.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Carl York, spokesman for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic region that has headquarters in Roanoke and covers Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and the eastern portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.
“Food banks are getting more food donations and less waste because they are involved earlier in the process,” York said. “Kroger is saving money and has better control of its inventory.”
Kroger initially considered setting up its own reclamation center, but instead decided to cut out the middleman and partner with food banks to make them reclamation centers.
With software and training from Kroger, Feeding America discards the trash, obtains data needed to process vendor payments or credits due to Kroger, and then distributes the edible and safe food to hungry people, Fussenegger said.
For years, Kroger sent its unsold non perishable products to third-party companies that would discard damaged foods and send the rest back to the manufacturer, sell the goods to discount operations or route the goods to food banks.
“The process was costly and inefficient,” Fussenegger said in the news release, adding that team in Salem “embraced our pilot, worked hard to make a home for the project and helped Kroger grow the concept.”
Since April 2012, Kroger’s program has sent more than $1.2 million worth of goods to Feeding America Southwest Virginia, making up about 6 percent of the food bank’s monthly product base, according to a news release.
Kroger sends about five truckloads of non-perishable goods to the facility every month, and the donations have become an important part of the inventory, said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
Kroger, she said, “really understands our need for food,” adding that the food bank expects the reclamation program to contribute 750,000 pounds of food in 2013.
A recent Feeding America study reports that 147,120 people in Southwest Virginia do not know where they will find their next meal.
“The model that Kroger has put together is different from anything we’ve had,” said Eric Davis, director of retail product sourcing at Feeding America, the national hunger relief organization. “Kroger has made this so simple.”
Feeding America Southwest Virginia also recently received a $100,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.
The grant will help Feeding America expand its food distribution program to better serve its 405 regional partners.
“This commitment comes at a critical time as we meet increased demand throughout our 26-county region,” Irvine said.
One in six people in Southwest Virginia struggles to put food on the table, she said. Feeding America Southwest Virginia has experienced a 57 percent increase in food distributed, as well as a 52.3 percent increase in the number of households receiving emergency groceries through its partner programs since 2001, she said.
The Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program supports organizations that create opportunities so people can live better, awarding grants that have a long-lasting impact on communities across the U.S.
As part of chain’s $2 billion commitment to fight hunger through 2015, Walmart stores in Virginia donated approximately 16.4 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2013, or the equivalent of about 13.6 million meals. Additionally, Walmart and the foundation gave approximately $31.5 million in fiscal year 2013 in Virginia alone.
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