Grocery Stores & the Nonprofit: Steps to Tackling Food Waste & Insecurity

Grocery stores are just one link in an ecosystem of food in any community. Many grocers feel a responsibility to look for food insecurity and shortages in their surrounding area and take action to help fill in disparities. The work also extends to addressing the challenge of food waste through prevention, reduction, and donation. Donations to and partnerships with organizations that work hard to feed community members who might otherwise go hungry benefit a grocer not just ethically, but in strengthening the links in the food ecosystem. Nonprofit partnerships appeal to consumers who care about businesses giving back to their communities. Cyclical benefits can emerge from such partnerships: continued support creates relationships between the grocer and the community, encourages collaborative, long-term solutions for food insecurity and food waste, and will draw in business from community members paying attention to nonprofit or charity work. 

Grocers are in a unique position to not only highlight the links between food waste and food insecurity, but to challenge the ecosystem in which they both exist. Below we dive into a few partnerships between organizations and grocers as well as internal company initiatives that seek to address food insecurity and food waste in their communities. 

United Family & Take a Bite Out of Hunger

This past Earth Week, the United Family grocery stores donated more than 500,000 pounds of apples—feeding more than 167,000 families—to Take a Bite Out of Hunger. This is the 11th year that United Supermarkets, Market Street, Albertson Market, and Amigos grocery stores have partnered with the FirstFruits Marketing of Washington-sponsored organization to make donations of apples to numerous food banks across Texas and New Mexico. 

Take a Bite out of Hunger was created to help feed people in need while drawing attention to the problem of food insecurity in the United States. Donations such as these became even more critical during the time of Covid-19, when access to healthy food was a much larger challenge for some families. But even in times unmarked by pandemic, providing healthy, fresh foods to underserved communities can have the potential to become an intrinsic part of how grocers interact with their communities.

Kroger & Zero Hunger | Zero Waste

Zero Hunger | Zero Waste is Kroger’s internal initiative to end hunger in the communities served by its stores and eliminate food waste company wide by 2025. The program includes drastic efforts to divert waste from the landfill and invest in reduction and recycling of food waste. Kroger also directed “$213 million in charitable donations to alleviate food insecurity in its stores’ communities. Total charitable giving for the organization climbed to $301 million last year.” The company recently deemed 21 stores, its Mid-South distribution center and Winchester Dairy facility as Food Donation Heroes, as well as 24 high-performing employees as Associate Fundraising Heroes. For each store team and individual associate “Zero Hero,” Kroger directs a $2,000 grant on their behalf to a local nonprofit organization of their choice.  

The internal nature of Zero Hunger | Zero Waste is a wonderful example of how a food waste/insecurity initiative can be a part of a retailer’s DNA. Issues of sustainability are inevitably tied together, and an interior initiative addressing all the challenges simultaneously allows Kroger to see real and mounting results as the years pass. 

It also allows Kroger shoppers a clear idea of what the company is doing to combat both food insecurity and food waste. On the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste webpage, Kroger declares “We Have to Do Something.” The concise, colorful graphic on the same page (below) outlines what the initiative seeks to accomplish. Grocery stores are just one link in the hunger food chain; intentional action through community relationships, urgent addressing of food waste, and continuing innovation for issues of food insecurity will make sure that they are not part of the problem.

Kroger's Plan

Schnucks & Rewards Program Donations

In a recent blog, we discussed how consumers may latch onto sustainability initiatives more easily when incentivized through a rewards program; the same incentivization might also be applied to charitable giving. Through their recently launched Donate Your Schnucks Rewards program, the grocer now lets customers opt to donate their rewards points to selected not-for-profit organizations in their community. In a news release on the initiative, the company stated that the program “enables customers to help organizations that support fighting food insecurity; developing the workforce; promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, youth and education, health and wellness, and animal welfare, simply by shopping at Schnucks.”

Putting the charitable giving directly into the hands of the consumer is an innovative way to not just let the customer know that their grocery retailer cares about their community, but also allows them an active, foundational hand in the process of addressing challenges of food insecurity and food waste in their community. The choice to exchange a personal discount or reward for the intentional choice of helping another individual lets a consumer feel good about their own actions, and connect that good feeling back to Schnucks brand. 

Metcalfe’s & Stop Waste Together

Metcalfe’s has partnered with Date Check Pro’s nonprofit initiative Stop Waste Together since 2016 in an effort to prevent food waste created by expired products from grocery shelves in Madison and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin communities. Stop Waste Together provides retailers with template marketing materials such as high-grade, tamper-proof coupons, aisle signage, and POS signage, as well as online promotion. Participation in this program maximizes waste prevention efforts, promotes those efforts to their customers, and tracks green impact per store.

Stop Waste Together

As we discussed in a past blog, clear signage and indication of participation in sustainability efforts will appeal to consumers who care about the environment. Similarly, displaying participation in and dedication to a nonprofit organization will not only help educate a consumer on the challenges such a program addresses, but will also engage the consumer who appreciates retailer partnerships that positively impact their community. 

Grocers Who Care About Their Communities Gain the Trust of Shoppers

Food waste and food insecurity are not quick-fix issues. Each requires intentional, consistent action. Solutions vary in size and execution, but as seen above, grocers of all sizes and locations are taking steps to address the cycle of food disparity. Caring about these issues long-term benefits the food ecosystem in which grocery retailers exist, and will only continue to grow and better the communities they find themselves a part of. 

To learn more about sustainability in grocery, be sure to download our recent e-book report on a 2020 Consumer Survey: Taking Stock of 2020: What Grocery Retailers Need to Know About Post-Pandemic Consumer Trends

In this e-book, you will learn about:

  • Changes in Consumer Behavior: COVID-19
  • Embracing the Future of Omnichannel Shopping
  • Sustainability: What Consumers Expect & How Retailers Can Meet Expectations
  • In-Store Shopping vs. Online Shopping: How the Management of Expired Foods Impacts the Consumer Experience

Download the Report