CHICAGO -- Despite a dropoff in donations to Second Harvest Food Banks, based here, Kraft Foods, along with retailers in 17 markets, will help feed the needy over the holiday season.
One reason for the shortage is that so much Center Store product is going to Central America for survivors of Hurricane Mitch, said Stacy Reineking, manager of media relations for Second Harvest. Industrywide efforts are under way to aid the United Nations World Food Programme, currently feeding 800,000 people a day in Nicaragua and Honduras in the wake of the disaster.
"We are down in national donations. The food banks are having to work harder to make it up," Reineking said.
In addition to competition from Central American relief, there is less product available, due to improved efficiencies in the production process, and an increase in secondary-market outlets for less-than-perfectly-packaged food.
Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., this year has made what Reineking called an extraordinary financial contribution to Second Harvest, which will enable the nation's largest hunger-relief organization to solicit, secure and distribute a conservative estimate of 10 million meals during this holiday season.
Kraft is running a television advertising campaign that educates the public about hunger, as well as the food bank, in 17 markets around the country. According to Reineking, the usual volume of calls to Second Harvest's 800 number is 50 per week; during the second week of the ad campaign calls were up to 1,500 per week.
Kraft's retail customers can participate in the ad campaign by giving the company preferred product placement during the holiday period. In return, Kraft has inserted retailer-specific messages into the ads. The campaign began Nov. 30 and will run until Dec. 31. Kraft is also making monetary donations to local food banks on behalf of participating retailers for the provision of meals.
Some of the retailers who are participating in this program are Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass.; Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill.; Piggly Wiggly in its Milwaukee stores; Giant Eagle in its units in Cleveland; King Soopers, Denver; Albertson's in Los Angeles; Kroger Co.; and Lucky Stores, according to Moira Knight, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, Bashas' Markets, based in Chandler, this year doubled its local food donations, matching 200,000 pounds donated, Becca Anderson, spokeswoman for the chain, told SN.
C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro, Vt., gives more than 400,000 cases of food each year to food banks and other organizations that provide food to the needy in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.
C&S has sent more than one trailerload of food to Honduras, spokeswoman Kim Keyes said. "We are actively supporting [local] charities for the holidays," she added.
"Being in the food business, we feel it is important for us to address homelessness and feed the needy in our country today," said Barry Scher, vice president for public affairs at Giant Food, Landover, Md.
Scher has chaired the Capital Area Community Food Bank board for 17 years, and another Giant executive sits on the board of the Maryland Food Bank. "There is no better conduit than food banks throughout the United States. We are proud of our involvement," said Scher.