MOUNT VERNON — For many years, Kroger has found ways to give back to the local community. This year, Kroger has made it a top priority to give back through its Hunger Relief campaign. For one year, Kroger will use different methods to raise money for agencies around the county and in its district.
“We started running a hunger campaign last September,” said Cheryl McCormick, spokeswoman for Kroger Co. of Columbus. “And since that time, we have done lots of things, whether it be collecting money at the coin boxes — and we had some scan cards where our customers could scan either $1, $5 or $10 at the register and that enters them into winning a free year’s worth of groceries — but also making a donation to the food bank and that was during the holidays.”
In January, Kroger began its Round Up program, which will continue through February. Customers will be allowed to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar or more. Kroger will match the amount which was added, and give it to Mid-Ohio Foodbank. In turn, Mid-Ohio will purchase food that will be distributed to local food banks.
“It’s a whole year campaign with matching funds — whatever the dollar comes to we will match those funds and send the money to the food bank,” she said. “We have some things planned for March and April, May and June, July and August, and then we will decide if we are going to pick it up again in September 2009.
“Right now we are still doing food banks, next month it will go to The Salvation Army, Children Hunger Alliance and Meals on Wheels, and then we will come back to the food bank,” said McCormick.
Kroger gives in other ways to the food banks and other agencies.
“We also have a food rescue program, where we collect meat before it gets outdated — the day before it is outdated and we know it’s not going to sell our stores — and Mid-Ohio picks it up and distributes frozen meat to all of the food pantries,” said McCormick.
Since September 2008, the Food Rescue Program has collected 388,000 pounds of meat. This year, Kroger hopes to add produce, dairy, frozen and bakery items to the program.
“Rather than throwing it out, it’s helping our recycling efforts and helping us feed the hungry. Everyone benefits from it,” said McCormick.
“Feeding the hungry has always been one of our giving guidelines and with what is happening with the economy. It actually triggered from Hurricane Ike, when there was such a need and there was such a dilemma; the food banks were out of everything and we sent truckloads of things over to them,” she said. “We knew with the holidays coming, here it is September and they are already in trouble. We were just sending truckloads of food everywhere.”
Kroger has always given to the community, explained McCormick, and the company knew the problem “wasn’t going away.”
“So our president said ‘let’s wrap our arms around this one and let’s come up with a year campaign,” said McCormick. “Let’s make us the hunger relief team and let’s go out there for a year and see what agencies we can help. Hopefully we can make an impact and get them back on their feet.’”
McCormick said that many years ago, Kroger did the Round Up program. Now the company is bringing it back, and hopes to see more customers involved.
“Folks really like it, [especially] if you are writing a check or something; it’s easier to write $15 than $14.65. With charging, it is not a problem with that,” said McCormick. “We have always made the effort to keep it locally.”
“Hunger is a priority for [Kroger] in their philanthropy and they are very creative in what they do,” said Evelyn Behm, vice president of strategic initiatives for Mid-Ohio. “They donate corporately and they enable their customers to donate as well for the hunger relief programs.”
During the holidays, Kroger runs the Hunger Knows No Season and Round Up programs.
“[The programs] give customers a chance to make small contributions that they probably won’t notice by rounding up to the next dollar and it makes a huge difference at Mid-Ohio Foodbank to have that support to acquire the food that we make available to all our agencies across our 20 counties,” said Behm.
Kroger has supported Mid-Ohio throughout the years by giving from its distribution center, products that are getting short code dated, and meat products close to code date.
“They continue to think of initiative ways to help us to focus on the issue of hunger in communities all across Ohio,” said Behm. “People may not recognize how many people are in need and they help us to highlight that as well.
“For those who can help, it gives them an opportunity to help in a meaningful way at a grocery store while they are shopping for their families, to think about other families that can’t afford to put food on the table, and [customers] can make a donation to ensure that all families will have food to eat,” said Behm.
According to Joy Harris, director of Mount Vernon Interchurch Social Services, Kroger has always helped the pantry.
“I know at least once since I have been here, we actually received a credit from Kroger for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,100, and they gave us a list of Kroger brand food that we were able to order,” she said.
The company also donates baked goods twice a week.
“That has been a great addition,” said Harris. “Sometimes there have been beautifully decorated cakes and when someone has a child with a birthday, we have been able to give them a decorated cake. It is something a little bit out of the ordinary for people, and we are very appreciative.
“I think that is great [that Kroger gives back locally.] People shop there and if it wasn’t for people shopping there locally, a corporation wouldn’t be able to exist in our small town to be able to give back to the community that they are in,” said Harris.