RALEY'S STORE OPENINGS SPUR DONATIONS TO FOOD BANKS

WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- When Raley's Supermarkets here bought 19 Albertson's stores in Las Vegas and 8 more in New Mexico, it gave more than $2 million worth of food to local food banks, said Carolyn White, director of corporate communications for Raley's. Included were all of Albertson's private-label products, Center Store items such as canned goods, diapers and bottled water, produce, meat,

WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- When Raley's Supermarkets here bought 19 Albertson's stores in Las Vegas and 8 more in New Mexico, it gave more than $2 million worth of food to local food banks, said Carolyn White, director of corporate communications for Raley's. Included were all of Albertson's private-label products, Center Store items such as canned goods, diapers and bottled water, produce, meat, and dairy products.

The process of closing stores, restocking and then reopening them took from Sept. 15 to Oct. 8. "We were opening three to four stores every three to four days," White said.

Bessie Braggs, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Clark County, in Las Vegas, said public service announcements about food giveaways created a lot of excitement in the community. "There was a lot of product, but it went to many agencies -- churches, a rescue mission, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army," she said. "It was one of the best things they could have done, coming into the community."

In Albuquerque, the Road Runner Food Bank received the vast majority of the Raley's donations, said Melody Wattenbarger, executive director. She said they got 11 1/2 semitrailer loads in 4 days -- so much that the food bank had to rent storage trailers until it could distribute the goods. She also said the donation caused Road Runner [named for the state bird of New Mexico] to show a record distribution for the month of September. "It was a wonderful donation -- one of the largest single donations that I've ever seen," said Wattenbarger, who has worked in the field for 12 years.

Both food-bank directors were pleased that Raley's is setting up Food For Families accounts for them and other agencies in the two cities. Braggs also told SN that each of the new 19 Las Vegas Raley's stores will donate $1,000 worth of meat for the holidays and will conduct food drives in the stores and enable customers to donate at checkout. Raley's has been doing the Food For Families program since 1987, she added.

The merger of Albertson's and American Stores Co. is responsible for the new retail landscape in California and the Southwest, as previously reported in SN (July 12, 1999). The 145 stores that Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's was ordered to sell are being divided up among five California companies, Raley's included.

The 27 stores added by Raley's will enable the chain to move beyond its Northern California-northern Nevada base into Las Vegas and New Mexico. In New Mexico, Raley's now operates six stores in Albuquerque and two in Las Cruces.