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ShopRite Steps Up Food Donation Program



The Daily Gazette

The five ShopRite stores in the Capital Region on Tuesday completed the rollout of a donation program that already has sent more than a quarter-million pounds of food to area food pantries.

ShopRite put the Food Recovery Program into operation in the Albany area in September 2017, but it wasn’t considered fully in place until the new North Greenbush store had it up and running.

Representatives of the supermarket chain marked the milestone Tuesday at the Colonie ShopRite with a presentation of food items typically donated through the program plus a presentation of $10,000 to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York for its capital campaign.

Sarada Bernstein, manager of consumer affairs for ShopRite Supermarkets, said the company hopes to expand the program to all 35 of its stores by the end of 2018. With the North Greenbush store coming online, The Food Recovery Program is now in place at 21.

It accomplishes several things, she said: It provides nutritious food options to people who otherwise may lack them; cuts down on food waste; reduces the company’s costs for disposal; and gives employees an initiative they can support.

The store employees have embraced it enthusiastically, Bernstein added.

“It’s not only helping feed the food-insecure but it helps us be more sustainable,” Bernstein said.

Typically, employees in each department take non-saleable or short-dated items off the shelf and set them aside. Five days a week, a driver from the Food Bank comes to the store and each department brings its stockpile to the loading area. Back at the Food Bank’s Latham headquarters, staff sorts the donated items for distribution to food pantries and client agencies.

The Food Recovery Program is built on goods that are fine to eat but hard to sell.

“Shoprite has very high standards for our food and our customers have very high standards for what they’ll buy,” Bernstein said.

So a fruit or vegetable that is nicked or bruised is fine to eat, but not to sell. It gets set aside for the Food Recovery Program. 

Meat that is approaching its sell-by date is marked down to encourage sale. If no one buys it, the staff will take it back and freeze it, which extends its shelf life for several months, provided it doesn’t thaw. 

A jug of milk that has reached its sell-by date still can be donated that day, because it is still fine to drink; it must be dumped after the date passes.

There are limitations. Because of sanitary codes, fresh ready-to-eat food prepared in-store can’t be donated, even if it’s still OK to eat.

But on the whole, it’s an excellent way to get better food into the hands of people who otherwise may not be able to afford it, Bernstein said.

The quantity donated varies from week to week, due to circumstances, she said. But since the program started here in September, the Capital Region ShopRites have donated 263,965 pounds of food — the equivalent of 219,970 meals.

The Regional Food Bank provides 38 million pounds of food a year to 1,000 charitable agencies serving more than 40,000 hungry and disadvantaged people a week in 23 counties.

ShopRite Supermarkets Inc. is based in the Orange County town of Florida and operates 35 stores in New York and New Jersey. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wakefern Food Corp. of Keasbey, N.J., a cooperative with more than 270 ShopRites in six states.

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