New Business Feeds the Need

Finding new partners in the retail industry to help end hunger.
July 19, 2016
by Diane Letson

Every day, member food banks are supported and powered to distribute more at the local level thanks to national retail partnerships within the Feeding America network. We partner with retailers across the country – including Walmart, Sam’s Clubs, Food Lion, Kroger, Publix, Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club – to access store donations. Last year alone, 1.4 billion pounds of retail donations reached member food banks and ultimately people in need of food assistance. But while retail donations serve as a bedrock for day-to-day food bank operations, we also know food recovery presents even more opportunities for growth and Feeding America is working to harness this untapped potential by engaging new retail partners and onboarding all of a current partner’s stores.

The Retail Partnership

As retail store donation programs grow throughout the Feeding America network, food bank members have looked to partner agencies, like food pantries and meal programs, to provide support by becoming approved pickup agents. Our research shows that retailers partnered directly with food pantries and meal programs typically have more frequent pickups and higher yields, making these relationships key to success. To appoint these pickup agents, member food banks cast a critical eye on their network of charity partners and only select partners that are capable of maintaining high standards. Food banks look for certain attributes: the capability to safely handle frozen, refrigerated and dry food; a commitment to consistency and providing stellar customer service; willingness to be trained on safe food handling; and distribution to the people we serve on at least a monthly basis. Considering some food banks coordinate with more than 400 retail stores, this ability to build localized partnerships ensures that every store is utilized and every community served.

ALDI’s national donation program

Building on an existing partnership in select markets, this year’s expansion will pair each of the grocery retailer’s 1,500+ locations across 34 states with a Feeding America member food bank in order to support as many local communities as possible. Stores will donate both food and household items, including fresh meat, produce, dairy, cleaning products and bathroom tissue, to support families in need. In 2015, ALDI donated more than six million pounds of food to Feeding America, and with the nationwide rollout this year, the company hopes to see a significant increase in these numbers.

“ALDI cares about the communities that we operate in – and we’re proud to lend a helping hand to those in need through our partnership with Feeding America,” said Tom Richey, Corporate Manager at ALDI. “We’re excited to now have all stores across the US contributing, and we look forward to making a real impact by helping local families.”

Save-A-Lot, a SUPERVALU banner

Another retailer that has diligently expanded the scope of its store donation program in 2016 is Save-A-Lot. Since January, more than six divisions have joined the program, which spans 184 stores, impacting 37 food banks in 17 states.   

Anna Vogel, Save-A-Lot’s Assistant Manager, Retail Operations, Store Support said:  “This partnership benefits our customers and the entire community; it’s a win-win for us. The program has been met with a lot of enthusiasm in the field and we are eager to get all stores in place. As we roll it out to corporate stores, we are now hearing from our licensee owners wanting to join in too.”

Tawa Supermarkets’

The recent addition of Tawa Supermarkets’ store donation program to the Feeding America network represents the perfect union of agency enabling and retail partnership. Feeding America member food banks in Los Angeles and Irvine, Calif., jumped at the chance to collaborate with this retailer, which operates 99 Ranch Market stores, and welcomed the grocer by partnering the stores directly with enabled agencies. Fourteen percent of people served by these food banks self-identify as Asian and/or Pacific Islander, and the staff commented that a segment of their agencies couldn’t satisfy an increased demand for ethnic food items. But 99 Ranch Market stores just so happens to carry a broad variety of Asian-influenced foods, and through their retail partnerships with the Feeding America network, Tawa is now able to provide an underserved community with the foods they desire.

Jonson Chen, COO/Vice Chairman, Tawa Services, Inc. said: "99 Ranch Market is proud to partner with Feeding America in building and fostering the communities that our stores are a part of. We have always recognized that being involved in the community is a key element of being a good neighbor. Feeding America is one of our many initiatives that help us achieve that goal."

Feeding America would not be able to provide food assistance to millions and achieve our goals without partners such as ALDI, Save-A-Lot and Tawa. 

**Diane Letson is the director of retail partnerships at Feeding America.