Impact Awards

How Progressive Grocer’s Impact Awards Winners Are Improving the World

As ESG efforts take on ever-greater importance in the business world, the grocery industry has diligently kept pace with this trend
11/15/2023

As environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts take on ever-greater importance in the business world, the grocery industry has diligently kept pace with this trend. Retailers, suppliers and solution providers alike are striving not only to implement programs that will further their goals in these areas, but also to ensure that conscientious customers know about it, so they can make their purchases accordingly.

The companies that we’re honoring with this year’s Impact Awards have done outstanding work to address such varied issues as food waste, hunger, employee health and wellness, greenhouse-gas emissions, responsible sourcing, and regenerative agriculture, to name just a few. Such far-reaching actions are becoming the norm among grocery industry businesses as the public increasingly demands to know the stories behind the food it buys, as well as how companies treat their employees and neighbors.

[Read more: "How Are ESG Considerations Really Driving Purchase Behavior?"]

Community Service/Local Impact

Aldi Impact Award

ALDI

Every June, for the past five years, ALDI has teamed with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), an organization dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancers, on an in-store and online campaign to raise funds and awareness in support of the cause.

Unique ALDI Finds provide customers with everything needed to host their own lemonade stands, including a pop-up lemonade stand, various lemonades, a glass beverage dispenser, summer-themed treats and lemon-scented soaps. Also during the campaign, stores offer reusable bags featuring artwork by ALSF heroes and their “SuperSibs,” siblings of kids with cancer.

This year, for the first time, ALDI donated 50 cents for each ALSF-branded bag of lemons
purchased throughout the month of June, up to $1 million. The grocer intentionally set the price to honor Alexandra “Alex” Scott, the child who started selling lemonade for that amount to raise money to find cures for childhood cancers and inspired the founding of ALSF.

Meanwhile, associates raise funds for the ALDI Heroes Fund to pay the expenses of ALSF
families traveling for treatment. The retailer doubles the impact by matching all donations, up to $500 per employee.

ALDI is on track to donate $10 million to ALSF by 2027.

Decicco Giving

DeCicco & Sons

Family-owned and -operated DeCicco & Sons operates 10 stores across Westchester County and into Putnam County in New York City’s northern suburbs. Its deep connection to these communities is why the independent grocer is committed to providing support to its neighbors in need.

In addition to supporting organizations such as local PTAs, breast cancer initiatives and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, among other causes, DeCicco & Sons seeks out innovative opportunities to aid communities when challenges arise.

For instance, when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, DeCicco & Sons opened its stores’ freezers to help local residents without power avoid losing their perishable food. This act of generosity has been repeated since then by the grocer’s stores in several communities they serve when winter storms have caused long-lasting power outages.

DeCicco & Sons also puts its sourcing capabilities, as well as its kitchens and bakeries, at the disposal of local causes, and has donated tons of food to local food pantries and other organizations.

Supporting communities through activism, volunteerism, material donations and financial support is second nature to DeCicco & Sons. Helping a diverse range of organizations enables the grocer to deepen its positive impact in the communities that it serves.

Food Lion Feeds

Food Lion

Because Food Lion creates a culture that encourages volunteering and allows everyone to find a greater purpose in the work they do every day, associates embrace the value of volunteer work. In 2022, Food Lion associates volunteered more than 17,000 hours, equivalent to more than 5 million meals.

Employees had various opportunities to volunteer. During several Sort-A-Rama events, associates packed food boxes. This included 16,000 nutritious food boxes in Charlotte, N.C., and providing nearly 47,000 meals in Raleigh, N.C. In Statesboro, Ga., associates volunteer monthly to support the Feed the Boro drive-thru distribution event. Food Lion’s partnership with Operation Homefront enabled associates to distribute nonperishable lunch items to more than 300 military families and their children in Norfolk, Va. Associates also supported the AidNow Jump Start event in Virginia Beach, Va., by providing much-needed school supplies to 500 students identified as marginalized and experiencing homelessness.

During Hunger Action Month in September, Food Lion employees supported their local communities by remodeling and stocking the shelves of 26 food pantries as part of The Great Pantry Makeover. Moreover, in the fall, associates gleaned 100,000 pounds of food by harvesting potatoes, corn or sweet potatoes that were still good for consumption. 

Freson Impact

Freson Bros.

Throughout December 2022, Freson Bros.’ Peace River, Alberta, team launched a series of activities in collaboration with the community to surpass its previous donations for the local food bank. The store incorporated innovative register campaigns and partnered with Peace Region Search and Rescue to encourage community members to donate nonperishable food items. Associates even visited local seniors’ homes, spreading holiday cheer with gifts and Christmas cards. All activities were actively promoted through Freson Bros.’ social media channels and in-store point-of-sale materials. These efforts resulted in the store surpassing its previous year’s donation record by 44.5%. The success of the initiative inspired other Freson Bros. stores to increase their donations to local food banks as well.

Meanwhile, Fox Creek, Alberta, was devastated by wildfires in May 2023 that led to a mandatory evacuation. Noticing that the brave firefighters needed nourishment and sustenance to help battle the blazes, Kyle Amos, the store manager of Freson Bros. Fox Creek, decided to return to the town to cook them meals. The entire Freson Bros. team rallied around this initiative, inspired by Amos’ unwavering dedication. Team members volunteered their time and skills to join the cooking efforts, showcasing their commitment to serving the community beyond their usual roles.

Goodsam products

GoodSAM       

Good is a theme that extends beyond the brand name, as this regenerative food provider notes that its products are good for you, good for farmers and good for the planet. Working with only regenerative farmers in a direct-trade model, the healthy snack food company, founded in 2019 by natural product industry veteran Heather K. Terry, strives to build a coalition of partners, suppliers and vendors around the world with shared core values.

As it builds its ally network, GoodSAM has continually increased its volume and diversity of commercially viable crops that give farmers a voice – and an income stream. In addition to paying premiums, the company uses 1% of all top-line sales to reinvest in farmers, cooperatives and communities through projects like infrastructure improvements, updates to sanitary systems and enhancements to local schools.

While helping its partners grow for the future, GoodSAM is also keen on preserving indigenous and smallholder farmer wisdom. Transparency is at the heart of GoodSAM’s many relationships, through regular impact reports and community statements. Keeping the good going, the organization also aims to inspire others in the food industry to create their own circular and direct models. 

Pompeian Mr Trash

Pompeian Inc. 

As part of its commitment to its hometown of Baltimore, Pompeian has taken on an array of local impact efforts, including cleaning the Baltimore Harbor, community beautification programs, educational programs for children, and working with local nonprofit organizations. Sponsoring Baltimore-based nonprofit Healthy Harbor for a second year in 2022, Pompeian readopted two beloved local trash interceptors, known as Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel, which have removed 440 tons, or 880,000 pounds, of litter and debris from the Baltimore Harbor.

Pompeian is also passionate about opening its doors and letting community members inside its facility to learn more about the health-and-wellness benefits of its products. The Olive Branch Project, which launched in 2015, has been expanded to empower Baltimore’s youth by offering local schools and children’s organizations the opportunity to visit the organization’s headquarters for immersive exploration and education. Pompeian also offers tours to an array of schools, colleges and youth groups to learn more about olive oil and olive oil production.

Superior Foods Volunteers

Superior Foods International

Community is a core value at Superior Foods International (SFI). Its corporate office in Watsonville, Calif., is surrounded by agriculture, yet the town is considered a food desert because it meets the low-income and low-access thresholds. In 2022, the U.S. Census reported that 13% of people in Watsonville City were living in poverty and that food insecurity is a major risk there.

As part of its response to the needs of the community, the company created an internal voluntary Beyond Social Responsibility (BSR) committee to organize event sponsorships, food and fund drives, and to approve employee-submitted donation proposals to nonprofits. In 2022, the BSR supported 11 nonprofit organizations, donated more than $25,000 and 30,000 pounds of frozen food, and enabled employees to volunteer 320 hours in the local community.

One key initiative last year was a $10,000 donation and many volunteer hours to help the Starlight School Garden & Kitchen reach its funding goal. The Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen, housed at an elementary school close to corporate headquarters, was created in partnership with Life Lab and received a significant grant to launch from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.

The company was also closely involved in the emergency response to flooding in Pajaro Valley. SFI supported employees whose homes had been affected, from digging mud out of yards to holding a food and clothing drive for elementary school students.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Kroger DEI

The Kroger Co.           

Kroger takes both an immediate and long-term view of ensuring that the business reflects the communities it serves, and fosters a culture empowering everyone to be their true self. To advance its long-term DEI commitment, the retailer established a DEI advisory council that reports to senior leadership and regularly partners with senior leaders and longstanding associate resource groups.

For the shorter-term future, Kroger’s DEI plan within its Framework for Action includes key focus areas and a series of actionable goals that were recently updated. Newer commitments include an effort to create a more inclusive culture through racial awareness and advocacy training, and new micro diversity and inclusion training modules for associates.

Additionally, Kroger is expanding its regional leadership development and mentorship programs for the cultivation of diverse talent and is boosting investments in diverse suppliers and partners.  In 2022, the grocer added 120 new diverse suppliers, a 16% increase from the prior year. 

Beyond action, listening is also crucial in Kroger’s DEI programs, through associate listening sessions and pulse surveys that gauge progress and impact. For transparency, the company has deployed internal and external hubs to share DEI initiatives and results. 

Meijer Pride

Meijer 

In the past year, Meijer has grown its team member resource group (TMRG) program membership by 300% as it works to bring together associates who share a common interest and their allies as a community in support of one another and the business. TMRGs focus on three main areas: supporting the business, creating education and awareness, and establishing community and safety. Groups have been formed for disability awareness and advocacy, young professionals, women in the industry, veterans, LGBTQIA+ associates, and those from varied backgrounds and experiences, including racial, ethnic, faith and religion.

Further, supplier diversity is an important focus area for Meijer. The company partners with minority-owned businesses when it enters new communities, and since 2020, it has hosted several virtual supplier diversity summits. Over the past two years, the company has grown its diverse-owned partnerships by 30%. Meijer is also interested in creating systemic change in today’s society, and to that end has invested in areas such as gender equality, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, and mental health and support. To date, the company has given $11.9 million to organizations, structures and people addressing underrepresented or underserved communities.

PCC Inclusiveness

PCC Community Markets              

With a mission to build more inclusive and equitable communities and food systems, PCC Community Markets recently debuted the Inclusive Trade Program, a new product standard to increase awareness and support for businesses owned by individuals who identify as members of historically and currently excluded communities, including Women-Owned; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) or Person of Color (POC)-Owned; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBTQIA+)-Owned; Veterans and Service-Disabled Veterans-Owned; and Persons with Disabilities-Owned.

PCC is the largest food co-op in the nation to adopt and expand this standard. Participating brands are identified and celebrated through in-store and online shopping, allowing consumers to select products from communities they wish to support or see themselves represented in.

The launch of the program comes on the heels of PCC’s first-ever statement of equity and inclusion – a core building block in support of its Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) work. Developed by the co-op’s JEDI Advisory Council consisting of store leadership, human resources, merchandising and other teams, the equity and inclusion statement acknowledges PCC’s recognition of, and commitment to, justice-centered change.

Retail Business Services

Retail Business Services         

In 2022, Retail Business Services (RBS), the services arm for Ahold Delhaize USA, continued efforts to recruit diverse candidate pools with respect to gender, race, ethnicity and veteran status, while also revising policies to reflect more inclusive language and updating several health benefits to become more inclusive for same-sex couples, including parental leave for all genders. The company offered more than 100 DEI learning opportunities and also defined priorities for its DEI council that are anchored in social justice; associate mentorship, sponsorship and retention; talent recruitment and management; and awareness and education.

Additionally, the company developed a curriculum to support business resource group chairs as leaders in building a culture of belonging in their respective groups and throughout the business. Those chairs were given the opportunity to attend affinity-based leadership events to learn and share best practices for cultivating inclusive workplaces. More than 250 group members also participated in a summit with sessions exploring such topics as allyship and the intersection of DEI and innovation.

Educational Support/Learning Advancement

Giant Co. Education

The Giant Co.

The Giant Co. partnered with the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture to unveil the PA Farms to Families Mobile Immersion Lab on National Farmer Day, Oct. 12, 2022. The mobile immersion lab connects families to four Pennsylvania farms and the farm-to-table process, facilitating hands-on learning experiences that connect people to who’s growing their food and how it was produced.

The lab showcases vendor partners BrightFarms, a hydroponic greenhouse; Buona Foods, a mushroom farm; Lazy Hog Farm, a swine operation; and Painterland Sisters, a dairy farm and yogurt processor, featuring all of the partners’ on-farm production and environmental practices that bring foods from field to plate. Guests can experience driving a tractor through a virtual-reality cornfield, quiz their knowledge of common fruits and vegetables, practice building a balanced meal with Pennsylvania-grown foods, and explore growing career opportunities in food and agriculture.

The immersion lab is actively on the road and booking events throughout 2023 and 2024, visiting schools and community events across the commonwealth. In its first three months, it traveled more than 500 miles, reaching more than 500,000 visitors, including Giant customers at its store opening in Bellefonte, Pa.

Hormel Education

Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods is one of the first companies in the United States to offer free community college education to the dependent children of its team members. The CPG company made that commitment during the pandemic, calling it the Inspired Pathways program.

Today, that program supports students in 67 community colleges across 18 states and has provided two-year scholarships to nearly 300 students. An additional 1,200 students and family members have benefited from the program’s free one-on-one college advising, financial-aid support and career-development opportunities. A quarter of this year’s graduates plan to further their education, and many others are entering the workforce loan-free.  

Meijer Education

Meijer 

In 2022, Meijer revealed that it will provide all team members an opportunity to earn a free education through enhanced benefits. As such, any team member – regardless of service tenure – qualifies for a completely free high school diploma or GED, English-language learners’ program or bachelor’s degree, thanks to the retailer’s partnership with four online universities. The program provides access to support resources to encourage team member success, and also to remove the financial and technological roadblocks that many currently face. Additionally, Meijer more than doubled its tuition reimbursement to the IRS maximum of $5,250 each year for all team members. 

The company’s Fred and Lena Meijer Scholarship helps to further offset the cost of education and can be used in conjunction with tuition reimbursement. Each year, leadership travels to personally surprise four $10,000 award recipients. Another 110 recipients receive $5,000 awards, for a total of $590,000 in scholarships this year alone. The Fred and Lena Meijer Scholarship has been helping team members and their children pursue their education goals for more than 47 years.

Entrepreneurial Support/Free Enterprise Enablement

UNFI UpNext

United Natural Foods Inc.

To better provide entrepreneurial support to diverse companies and enable free enterprise, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) relaunched its UpNext Program. Through the program, UNFI identifies potential partners from underrepresented groups that align with UNFI’s ESG goals and initiatives to create a more diverse and representative supply chain, and provides them with the resources and insights needed to develop a successful partnership with UNFI.

UpNext provides mentorship from supplier development managers who help set mutual goals specific to each brand and offer a variety of unique opportunities, including marketing programs that specifically support diverse and women-owned suppliers.

As part of the program, potential partners attend in-person boot camp events to help them ramp up to become UNFI suppliers. The program also leverages UNFI’s various trade shows to give suppliers unique opportunities to showcase their business and products, culminating in a Pitch Slam competition, which is held in front of an audience comprising UNFI’s sales team, retailers and leadership, and recognition of the winning brand on the UNFI show floor. 

UNFI also provides end caps celebrating diversity and heritage brands, including LGBTQ suppliers in June, Hispanic-owned suppliers in September, and many more on the horizon.

Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency

Frontier Co-Op

Frontier Co-op

Frontier Co-op is committed to ensuring that its sourcing practices have life-changing impacts in the global communities it reaches. The co-op has refined its impact sourcing program, Well Earth, by improving transparency and traceability, and by doubling down on project investments with its sourcing partners around the world.

Along with joining Sedex (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) last year to track suppliers’ responsible business practices, Frontier Co-op set a goal to invest $5 million in supply chain development by fiscal year 2026. As of this year, the co-op has invested $1.4 million toward that goal, funding long-term projects that allow it to continue providing high-quality products that meet retailer and consumers’ demands for sustainable sourcing.

One way that Frontier Co-op is delivering on this goal is by partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) to implement projects with key suppliers in India, Guatemala and Sri Lanka to drive economic and social benefits in these countries. Beyond CDP, the co-op’s recent projects focus on community-building efforts including education, medical and basic needs support; business building involving value-added processing and agricultural practices that help farmers retain more value in their communities; and climate resiliency tactics like crop diversification and regenerative farming.

Giant Impact Award Winner

Giant Food

Giant Food ensures ethical and just supply chains by confirming social compliance, maintaining a robust animal welfare policy and upholding its human rights policy to embody its deeply held beliefs that all people involved in the food supply chain should be treated fairly and with respect.

The grocer provides customers with information about products, including where they came from, as well as highlighting sustainable product qualities such as minimally processed, fair labor and climate friendliness. An easy-to-use environmental social impact rating system analyzes each ingredient against environmental and social criteria, including farming practices, treatment of animals, labor conditions and chemical use. The more leaves a product has, the more sustainable it is, making it easy for customers to make informed choices when they shop.

Giant Food also continues to conserve and regenerate natural resources by promoting regenerative agriculture as well as sourcing a wide array of certified sustainable products, including key commodities such as coffee, cocoa, tea, palm oil, soy and wood. Moreover, it participates in the Ocean Disclosure Project, which shares fishery information for Giant’s wild-caught seafood, and partners with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to help Giant maintain the credibility and transparency of its sustainable seafood policy.

Niman Ranch

Niman Ranch  

Humanely raised meat company Niman Ranch has created a model of agriculture that builds opportunities for rural America by keeping small family farms on the land through environmental stewardship and humane animal care practices. The company has a network of more than 600 farmers and ranchers, and is laser-focused on supporting young farmers, advocating for humane animal care, bringing opportunity to rural America, and many other initiatives.

Niman Ranch offers cost-share support for regenerative farming practices, including cover crops, no-till and pollinator habitats, and its Niman Ranch Foundation awards scholarships and grants to young farmers and ranchers to help pay for college and invest in their farms.

The company also collaborates closely with its retail customers to arm them with the information, transparency and tools they need to share the Niman story and help sell its products. Customers and consumers are invited to experience the company’s operations through in-person farm tours or virtual-reality farm tours, and Niman also undertakes company town halls, trainings and convenings to help with further education and transparency.

Topco Full Circle

Topco Associates LLC

Topco is dedicated to working with partners that follow responsible practices. The company’s Full Circle Market wild-caught yellowfin tuna, for example, is entirely sourced from the first artisanal primary processing facility and fishing company to be certified under the Global Seafood Alliance Best Seafood Practice Certification program.

Full Circle Market is also the first grocery brand to adopt Wholechain, a traceability system that links suppliers, processors, food brands and grocers across every product in its seafood product line. In partnership with Envisible, the sustainable sourcing company that created Wholechain, Full Circle Market created the first retail-ready product line of seafood to be entirely traceable from source to sale.

Wholechain allows the supplier to track its tuna, salmon and other products by accumulating data as products change hands along the supply chain. A digital record follows the product from the source to the store, providing valuable data that can be used for planning and analysis, and enabling the company to reduce food waste and improve quality. Important product data, information and stories can now be communicated to customers through a scannable QR code experience at the point of sale.

Ethical Sourcing & Sustainability/Supply Chain Transparency

Big Island Coffee

Big Island Coffee Roasters

:Big Island Coffee Roasters, which offers direct-to-consumer single-serve Kona coffees in fully compostable, nitro-sealed packets for travel or home use, is determined to protect the integrity of authentic Hawaiian coffee and safeguard the state’s wild places. Among the ways that it strives to do these things is by offering living wages and creating an equitable, sustainable supply chain for the family farmers that supply its product; basing prices on quality, relationships and costs, rather than on the coffee commodity market; and using 100% renewable electrical energy, which has prevented more than 29 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of stopping 28,000 pounds of coal from being burned.

The company has given more than $6 million to Hawaii coffee farmers through direct purchases of fresh, raw Hawaiian coffee. Additionally, to preserve the islands’ native species, local farms and ancient culture, it gives back to organizations that support wildlife rescue and habitat restoration.

According to Big Island Coffee Roasters, “Specialty coffee takes a whole-systems approach to economic, environmental and agricultural well-being, because we know that sustainability is rarely black and white. The result is better care of our land, living wages for our workers and remarkable coffee experiences for coffee lovers.”

Food Security/Nutritional Leadership

Dollar General

Dollar General Corp.

According to the USDA, about 13.5 million people in the United States live in food deserts. This enables Dollar General (DG) to be part of the solution to the problem, since around 75% of Americans live within 5 miles of a DG store, and many locations serve communities without other retail options.

All 19,000-plus DG stores offer healthier foods, including dairy items, frozen vegetables, proteins, canned fruits and vegetables, and grains. As of Q2 2023, DG carries produce in more than 4,400 stores, and by the end of the fiscal year it will have more individual points of produce distribution than any other U.S. mass retailer or grocer. It plans to add fresh produce to approximately 10,000 stores over the next few years, with a meaningful number of them in food deserts. 

DG also works with Feeding America to alleviate food insecurity, especially in rural areas. Since 2021, DG has donated $3 million to the hunger-relief organization, as well as continual in-kind donations of perishable and nutritious food to community food banks.

Further, DG’s Better For You program gives customers increased access to affordable healthier foods, making it easier for shoppers to find such options. DG collaborated with registered dietitian Mary Alice Cain on healthier recipes whose ingredients are available at every store.

Food Lion Feeds

Food Lion

Food Lion’s customers, associates and Food Lion Feeds helped nourish neighbors in 2022 with more than 158 million meals, an increase of 6 million meals over 2021. Food Lion Feeds is also committed to creating sustainable resources to address the systemic issues of food insecurity. By giving grant funding to its partnership agencies – Feeding America and local partner member food banks, Operation Homefront, Meals on Wheels America, and No Kid Hungry – the organization is working to build capacity so more meals can be delivered to families throughout Food Lion’s operating area.

The grants are vital for agency partners to be well equipped with secure investments in hard assets, infrastructure and agency-related capacity building areas that address critical needs in providing food. For example, the company donated $450,000 to Meals on Wheels America to expand senior nutrition services in 13 communities where Food Lion operates. One agency used the grant funding to support the increase of special diets for seniors; another provided meals and nutrition counseling to adults when they were discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the FoodWorks program provides culinary and life skills training to individuals who are trying to overcome food insecurity by pursuing a career in the food industry. 

Giant Co. Food Security

The Giant Co.

The Giant Co. supported the nonprofit Empower at the Bridge Foundation to establish the Giant Bleacher Garden to combat food insecurity while strengthening sustainability for communities in need. The partnership repurposed bleachers and other recyclable materials at a former local high school football field to create productive, high-yielding community gardens to feed underserved families in the Harrisburg, Pa., area.

The grocer’s $90,000 sponsorship over two years (2022 and 2023) directly supports infrastructure and supplies to convert the bleachers into functional, flourishing raised bed-style gardens. In return, this support is providing food-insecure families with nutritious and culturally appropriate foods, including lettuces, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, Asian greens, winter squash, eggplant, pumpkins, peas, potatoes, onions, kale, collard greens, beans, zucchini, herbs and edible flowers. In its growing season, the bleacher garden harvested more than 5,000 pounds of food, donating nutritious fresh foods directly to families living in neighboring food deserts.

In addition to financial support, The Giant Co. and its team members volunteered more than 2,500 hours in 2022 to plant, maintain and harvest the garden using sustainable agricultural practices. Giant also partnered with Planet Bee Foundation to donate beehives to promote pollination and supply community members with honey.

HelloFresh Food Security

HelloFresh 

The company may sell meal kits, but for HelloFresh, food security is the whole package. The Green Chef portfolio within its family of brands has a new social impact program, Community Fresh Markets. It’s akin to a farmers’ market, with fresh ingredients like organic produce and protein, dairy, and shelf-stable items distributed at a specific meeting place to people experiencing food insecurity in those communities.

The free Community Chef Markets began in areas of central Colorado and southern New Jersey where Green Chef employees work and live, as the business sought to understand residents’ needs and follow its larger mission of sustenance. Taking the program wider, Hello Fresh changes the location of the market every month to provide equitable distribution to those seeking support.

Green Chef associates are engaged in the program, too, regularly volunteering at market distributions. As the company plans to build on these programs, it’s involving its customers as well, who can contribute the value of their box if they decide to skip their weekly subscription meal kit, or contribute via checkout incrementally to increase ingredient variety, market frequency and location expansions.

Hy-Vee Food Security

Hy-Vee Inc.     

A notable testament to Hy-Vee’s successful efforts to improve food security was the Midwest retailer’s invitation to the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. While there, Hy-Vee committed to delivering 30 million meals to vulnerable communities by 2025and to deploy its team of registered dietitians to educate 100,000 Americans in areas of low food access on the topic of healthy eating by 2026.

The company is on track to meet those goals. Its Scan Out Hunger campaign raised enough funds to donate 9.3 million meals to those in need. Hy-Vee’s Food Bank Fridays campaign is another success story, garnering enough money to provide more than 27 million meals to Feeding America-affiliated food banks in 2022. In 2023, Hy-Vee launched the 100 Million Meal Challenge with Feeding America and expects to give 100 million meals to partner food banks by the end of the year.

In addition to special campaigns, Hy-Vee has several longstanding initiatives that it supports to help end hunger, like its annual Hams for the Holidays program with Hormel Foods, Feeding America and first responders, and its One Step philanthropic program, which resulted in 19.3 million meals donated to Meals from the Heartland. 

Meijer Food Security

Meijer      

Hunger relief is one of Meijer’s longest-standing philanthropic commitments, with the retailer’s Simply Give program helping to stock the shelves of food pantries across the Midwest, and its food rescue program donating quality food that would otherwise go to waste directly to area food banks. The company has also donated more than 100 reconditioned tractors and trailers from its fleet to nonprofit and food-giving organizations since 2010.

Simply Give has generated more than $79 million, thanks to the support of its customers, team members and food pantry partners. Customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout, which is converted into a Meijer food-only gift card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store. On select days, the retailer matches or double matches customer donations to increase the program’s impact.

Additionally, the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give golf tournament helps raise funds for hunger relief, and over nine years has generated more than $8.65 million for Simply Give food pantry partners across the Midwest.

Southeastern Grocers Food Security

Southeastern Grocers

Feeding people is a passion for Southeastern Grocers (SEG). Since 2005, the grocer and its SEG Gives Foundation have partnered with Feeding America and that organization’s network food banks to fight food insecurity and help alleviate hunger in SEG communities, and have contributed more than 250 million pounds of food through the Food Rescue program.

Last year, the retailer donated more than $700,000 and hosted 20 mobile food pantry events throughout the Southeast. As part of its summer hunger initiative, SEG donated $140,000 to seven Feeding America network food banks to help combat food insecurity among children during the summer. For the holiday season, the retailer partnered with food banks and military organizations to provide more than 7,000 Thanksgiving turkeys and meal essentials for thousands of people and donated more than $288,000 toward holiday hunger commitments.

SEG also provided accessible healthy meal options through its summer Break from Hunger program to assist families struggling to feed their children. The program allowed customers and associates ages 17 and younger to purchase a specially prepared Student Summer Lunch Pack meal box for $2 at any Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket, or Winn-Dixie deli department.

Philanthropic Innovation/Corporate Giving

Giant Food Philanthropy

Giant Food

Since its founding in 1936, Giant Food has made it a priority to support the communities that it serves through volunteering and corporate giving. The grocer has four charitable pillars: Hunger, Military, Health & Wellness, and Corporate Responsibility (social equity and equality and sustainability).

The Hunger charitable pillar supports Giant’s five Feeding America food bank partners, as well as local food pantries and community programs. In 2022, Giant Food donated more than $2 million dollars and 4.7 million-plus pounds of food (4,785,007 meals) to its five food bank partners. The grocer also donated 10,000 turkeys and 1,200 hams to ensure that families can celebrate the holidays with key dinner staples.

Under the Military pillar, Giant Food supports the USO National Capital District. In 2022, the grocer donated more than $1.1 million to the USO National Capital district through its annual in-store USO campaign. It also helped raise $200,000 for the USO in support of a national campaign for U.S. service members deployed in Eastern Europe.

Giant Food’s Health & Wellness initiative helps fund pediatric cancer research and treatment. Last year’s annual in-store Pediatric Cancer Campaign raised a record $2.23 million for Johns Hopkins and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

Under the Corporate Responsibility charitable pillar, Giant Food donated more than $881,000 to support local organizations working to eliminate health and economic disparities. Eight organizations each received $110,000-plus in grants through a roundup campaign.

Hy-Vee Disaster Relief

Hy-Vee Inc.     

Midwest retailer Hy-Vee focuses on many aspects of giving as it seeks to better the communities that it serves and others beyond its footprint.  In 2022, the company donated more than $55 million to nonprofit organizations in its service areas, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Variety – the Children’s Charity, and the Page Education Foundation. On a local level, each of Hy-Vee’s more than 285 retail stores supports local initiatives and organizations through monetary donations, product donations and volunteerism. 

Hy-Vee’s philanthropy is personal in many ways: The retailer expanded the Hy-Vee Disaster Relief Fleet, created in 2021, to include more vehicles that provide immediate assistance to areas affected by devastating events. Meanwhile, as it grows its health-and-wellness operations, Hy-Vee has extended philanthropic support in this area as well, including the deployment of registered dietitians and a fleet of mobile health units for free health screenings and other services.

The retailer’s commitment to provide hunger relief includes donations of 27 million meals to Feeding America Food banks and the launch of the 100 Million Meal Challenge. Additionally, Hy-Vee continues its partnership with customers and communities to increase awareness for veteran and active-duty military support efforts through the Hy-Vee Homefront initiative. 

Sustainability/Resource Conservation

Afresh

Afresh

To date, Afresh has enabled 29 retail banners to prevent more than 43.5 million pounds of food waste, reduce 24 million-plus kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent and save more than 886 million gallons of water. Through its retailer partnerships, Afresh orders 13% of the nation’s produce.

In 2022, Afresh rolled out its technology across 2,200 Albertsons-plus stores in just seven months. According to Albertsons Chief Sustainability and Transformation Officer Suzanne Long, “Our partnership with Afresh helps us improve ordering and better manage our inventory of fresh fruits and vegetables so our customers have access to fresher products, and we’re able to make meaningful progress toward achieving our goal to have zero food waste going to landfill by 2030.”

Afresh also completed a chain-wide deployment at the produce departments in Cub’s 80 corporate stores last year. The banner expects to prevent at least 2.1 million pounds of food waste annually, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 1,264 tons and save 43 million gallons of water.

Now Afresh is expanding its solutions to support other core fresh departments, including meat, seafood, deli and foodservice. By doing so, it expects to reduce 49 million pounds of food waste annually.

BriarPatch Dairy

BriarPatch Food Co-op

Sustainability is at the heart of everything that BriarPatch Food Co-op does. In business since 1976, it continues to work toward greater eco-friendliness. One key area is refrigeration: Hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants represent the largest single source of greenhouse-gas emissions at BriarPatch, accounting for more than 50% of the grocer’s total emissions each year.

Therefore, the co-op has installed a natural refrigeration system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and help reverse climate change at its Auburn, Calif., store. This places BriarPatch among the only 2% of grocery stores in the United States to switch to natural refrigeration.

BriarPatch also became a new partner this year in the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership. Program partners demonstrate a commitment to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the environment. Enrollment in GreenChill will enable the co-op to better track its usage, set achievable goals to help it compare its leak rates with those of other grocery stores nationwide and supply it with learning tools for greater success.

Beyond refrigeration, BriarPatch donates unsold edible food to staff or local hunger relief agencies, while food not fit for human consumption is picked up by local farmers three times a week and used for animal feed and compost.

Clover Sonoma

Clover Sonoma

Clover Sonoma’s firsts include being among the first dairies to ditch the synthetic growth hormone rBST, becoming the first American Humane Certified dairy in the United States and ensuring that 100% of its organic dairies implement at least five regenerative agriculture practices.

In 2022, to reduce its on-farm greenhouse-gas footprint, it was the first commercial dairy to trial Blue Ocean Barns’ Brominata, a red seaweed feed additive designed to lower enteric (cow burp) methane emissions dramatically. Using on-farm GreenFeed machines, Clover Sonoma measured a 50%-plus reduction in enteric methane gas emissions among cows that were fed Brominata over 60 days.

Having created the first renewable milk carton, with a 100% plant-based liner, in the United States in 2020, Clover Sonoma began eliminating plastic caps two years later, starting with its half-gallon paper cartons, thereby preventing more than 1,253,291 pounds of plastics from entering landfills. Also in 2022, the company introduced the first post-consumer recycled (PCR) gallon milk jug (made with 30% PCR material) in the United States for its organic milk gallons. Using PCR packaging reduces Clover Sonoma’s carbon footprint, lessening the impact on landfills, and it will extend PCR content use for all of its gallon milk jugs by 2025.

Flashfood

Flashfood

Flashfood is an app-based marketplace that aims to eliminate retail food waste by connecting consumers with discounted food. It offers consumers big savings on grocery items like meat, fish, dairy and fresh produce while diverting food waste from landfills.

According to Flashfood, eliminating food waste at retail could not only significantly reduce emissions contributing to climate change, but also conserve the natural resources and energy used in food production, thereby addressing the connected problems of hunger and food insecurity. 

Since 2018, Flashfood has diverted more than 80 million pounds of waste from landfills, which is equivalent to 68 million-plus kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions and more than 16,000 years of electricity consumption for one household. Additionally, it has saved its customers $180 million on grocery bills at a time of high inflation.

Flashfood is currently available in more than 2,000 grocery stores across North America and expanding quickly: In 2022 alone, the company added 325 new stores and six new states to its network and worked closely with retail partners to roll out new initiatives like SNAP EBT payment capabilities and fresh-to-frozen, an initiative that extends the life of high-value perishable products by freezing them ahead of their expiration date.

Fleet Advantage

Fleet Advantage

Fleet Advantage’s mission is to provide industry-wide awareness that helps grocers understand what’s realistically possible when it comes to reducing their fleets’ carbon footprint.

Fleet Advantage’s recently released electric vehicle life cycle cost analysis tool, EVAN (Electric Vehicle Analytic Navigator), within its proprietary emissions studies, not only helps further identify and optimize the total cost of ownership (TCO) for grocers’ fleets, to determine the efficacy of using electric vehicles, but also enables them to pay closer attention to their truck’s life cycles so they can figure out where sustainability measures can be implemented.

Fleet Advantage also helps grocers build custom ESG roadmaps, and EVAN plays a crucial role by comparing diesel versus electric class-8 vehicle TCO, with modeling that evaluates fuel and mileage data versus kilowatt-hour comparisons from the first year through a six-year life cycle. The tool takes into consideration various inputs and converts them into a cost per mile to determine the total cost of operating an electric vehicle over its lifetime, allowing grocers to decide which type of vehicle is more cost-effective.

Overall, Fleet Advantage has reduced customers’ carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1 million metric tons since inception, through philosophical change and its pioneering solutions.

Food Lion Food Rescue

Food Lion

For more than 20 years, Food Lion has pioneered innovative, sustainable business practices. Its promise – to reduce food waste, conserve energy and source products locally and responsibly – helps the omnichannel retailer to be the best neighbor possible in the towns and cities it serves.

Because Food Lion is invested in the future, the grocery retailer is committed to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. Donating viable food to its community partners is a significant way to achieve this. In 1999, Food Lion worked with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, to create and implement a pioneering food rescue program that retailers across the country have since adopted.

That food rescue effort continues under Food Lion Feeds, the hunger relief platform founded by Food Lion in 2014 to address food insecurity. In 2022, Food Lion Feeds provided more than 62 million pounds, or 51 million meals, through its food rescue program. More than 1,100 Food Lion stores distributed unsold, edible food – fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products, and shelf-stable food – that might otherwise go to waste to partner food banks and feeding agencies.

Giant Food Sustainability

Giant Food      

Beyond the notion of a carbon footprint, Giant Food looks at the landscape on which those footprints are made. Starting with production, the grocer partnered with Tillamook County Creamery Association to support the American Farmland Trust (AFT) Brighter Future Fund, which helps farmers start and sustain farms in the face of challenges. In 2022, the grocer raised more than $108,000 to assist six local farms. Another collaboration, among Giant Food, the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, supports local dairy farmers throughout the local watershed to improve their land and water.

At the point of sale, Giant Food helps shoppers make informed choices by implementing an environmental and social impact rating system called HowGood, which analyzes each ingredient based on environment and social criteria and rates items with one, two or three leaves.

Giant Food also worked with GreenPrint to offset 30% of consumers’ vehicle emissions generated from gas sold at its fuel stations by planting more than 12,500 trees and investing in certified carbon reduction projects. At the end of the circular economy, the retailer teamed with food waste-recycling program Divert to prevent 18.3 million pounds of food from reaching landfills. 

Harmless Harvest

Harmless Harvest 

To ensure that its harvests are indeed harmless, the organic coconut water company conducted an assessment of overall greenhouse-gas emissions and found that a large portion stemmed from farm residue management. To remedy that problem, Harmless Harvest encouraged coconut farmer partners to turn their farm residue into compost and to introduce cover crops to protect soil and improve carbon sequestration.

Harmless Harvest works toward a goal of zero waste by getting creative in how to use excess materials; for example, rather than discarding the coconut after harvesting the water, the company turns the remaining fruit into nondairy coconut products like yogurt and smoothies. For non-consumable material like coconut husks and shells, the organization works with partners to create compost, biochar, fiber and other useful materials.

In four years, Harmless Harvest has gone from 1% upcycling of coconut meat and husks to a 75% rate. Elsewhere in its operation, the CPG company has cut coconut water losses during the manufacturing process by 50% and switched all beverage bottles to 100% recycled plastic. By 2025, the business intends to create 100% post-consumer recycled, recyclable, reusable or compost-based packaging for its dairy-free cup and drinkable yogurt alternative products. 

HiBar Face Wash

HiBAR            

HiBAR really does set a high bar for environmental impact. The mission-based company, whose salon-quality solid shampoos and conditioners are sold in more than 10,000 stores around the United States, is gaining followers for its goal of removing single-use plastic from everyday lives. 

It started by reformulating personal care products to be plastic-free, with fully compostable packaging made from recycled paper stock printed with vegetable-based ink. HiBAR recently added other options for sustainability-minded consumers, launching a line of water- and fragrance-free facial cleansers and natural deodorants available in an innovative push-up applicator.

Its actions are getting noticed: As HiBAR points out, other brands have taken a cue from its success and added solid-formula products to their lines, too. Additionally, the impact of HiBAR’s efforts is being felt, as the company, its retail partners and its consumers have eliminated nearly 5 million plastic bottles from landing in waterways and landfills. HiBAR also notes that it has saved more than 1 million gallons of water from the manufacturing process.

Kroger Sustainability

The Kroger Co.           

Now in its sixth year, Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste impact program addresses “a fundamental absurdity” in the food system: the fact that nearly 40% of all food in the United States is wasted while one in eight people struggles with hunger. The retailer’s approach to tackling that absurdity has accelerated in recent years, and Kroger is on track to achieve zero waste across its organization by 2025, zero food waste to landfills by 2025, and 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable Our Brands packaging by 2030.

To date, 30 of 32 Kroger-operated manufacturing facilities, most of its warehouses and 34 of its grocery stores are zero waste. In stores, several programs are in place to reduce waste, including markdowns to make food nearing expiration more affordable, surplus food donations and food recycling. Since the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative began in 2017, Kroger has decreased total food waste generated in stores by 18.9% and improved the food waste diversion rate by 21.7 percentage points.

Among other solutions, the retailer is hitting its goals in this area by expanding its seamless ecosystem, optimizing store-level execution of Zero Hunger |Zero Waste programs, enabling technology to recover and redistribute more surplus food, and aligning charitable giving to feed more people. 

MegaFood

MegaFood       

Driven by its belief that food grown from healthy soil is a key solution to making people and the planet healthier, MegaFood works with farmers who share its commitment to soil health and nutrient-dense food. The company, which crafts nutrient-rich, planet-first vitamins and supplements made with real food, is a certified B Corporation and engages in multiple efforts to advance regenerative agriculture. MegaFood has held workshops in Indonesia to help farmers manage their land, improve soil fertility and support sustainable livelihoods, and also participates in working groups that prioritize regenerative agriculture knowledge and policy. 

The company sponsored a delegation of farmers who flew to Washington D.C., for the Climate Action: Rally for Resilience, and it engaged customers on the importance of regeneration by working with a key farm partner to collaboratively host a retailer education day on the farm. Further, MegaFood was the first supplement company to be Glyphosate Residue Free Certified by the Detox Project. While glyphosate is the most used pesticide in the United States, it may also kill microbes in the soil that are essential to growing healthy food.

PCC Kirkland

PCC Community Markets      

In 2022, PCC Community Markets earned the Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification for its Downtown Seattle and Kirkland, Wash., stores, while also achieving multiple ambitious sustainability goals. The LBC certifications, awarded by International Living Future Institute (ILFI) for meeting the world’s most rigorous green building standards, has seven key performance categories, including materials, place and beauty.

The company also has a firm grasp on sustainability, and in 2022 increased organic products on shelves by 2.1%; offered approximately 800 fair trade products; achieved carbon-negative store operations by reducing overall emissions and purchasing carbon offsets; diverted 89% of its waste from landfills into composting, biodigestion recycling and food donations; reduced 9% in landfill waste through source reduction initiatives; improved recycling, composting and internal waste audits; and sent more than 1.7 million pounds of food to 50-plus community and hunger relief organizations.

RJW Logistics

RJW Logistics Group 

Through an asset-based model, centralized inventory strategy and full-scale retail logistics program, RJW Logistics Group is cultivating business practices that yield long-term sustainability benefits for its customers, stakeholders and the industry at large. Its facilities are LEED certified and are equipped with motion sensor lighting, skylights and battery-operated equipment, while its recycling program for corrugate, wood, paper and plastic averages 1,800 tons yearly across its network. The company also designs and maintains green spaces surrounding its facilities and prohibits the fluid maintenance, washing and upkeep of all transportation equipment on its properties.

Through the centralization of customers’ inventory, truckload and less-than-truckload shipments don’t travel to regional warehouses, thereby reducing RJW’s carbon emissions, diesel fuel consumption and general supply chain redundancies. Additionally, RJW continually monitors the diesel fuel consumption of its vehicles and ensures that trucks purchased use clean diesel emissions technology. The company reports weekly results to each driver regarding their idle time and ties quarterly bonuses to individual results.

Southeastern Grocers Sustainability

Southeastern Grocers

Southeastern Grocers (SEG) made significant strides toward reducing waste last year. The retailer is eliminating the use of polystyrene in its own-brand packaging and working to ensure that all packaging is either reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable. As part of its effort to include an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material in its own-brand packaging, SEG partnered with How2Recyle on product labeling featuring easy-to-understand recycling instructions, and the retailer continues to work with supplier partners and stakeholders to achieve industry-established sustainable product and packaging goals.

SEG also partnered with Relocalize to pilot ice manufacturing in the world’s first autonomous micro-factory designed to help eliminate middle-mile logistics to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions, water waste and plastic pollution. Together, they launched SE Grocers Party Cubes, super-premium cubed ice made efficiently, locally and on-demand for select Jacksonville, Fla., stores. The process produces zero water waste – compared with 50% normally – and reduces trucking carbon dioxide emissions by 90%. Party Cubes store better, cost less for consumers compared with traditional bagged ice, and are packaged in smaller, leak-proof, 100% recycle-ready material. Additionally, Relocalize removes and recycles 2 pounds of ocean plastic for every 1 pound of plastic used in its packaging.

UNFI Sustainability

United Natural Foods Inc.

As part of its commitment to meaningful climate action across its full value chain, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has adopted a Better for All strategy to address climate action and sustainability. The company is among the first North American wholesale distributors to adopt emission reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). 

UNFI’s SBTi targets span both operations and value chain initiatives and include plans to reduce scope 1 and 3 heavy freight well-to-wheel greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation by 38% on an intensity basis and reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse-gas emissions from all other sources by 50%.

Since 90% of its greenhouse-gas emissions come from its value chain, UNFI partnered with the Climate Cooperative to launch Climate Action Hub, offering UNFI suppliers access to a variety of tools and resources, including opportunities for suppliers and partners to learn from experts and one another to innovate and scale climate solutions across the food system.

Last year, the company began its largest solar array investment to date at its Howell, N.J., distribution center. Now complete, the 3.2-megawatt roof-mounted solar array is projected to generate an estimated 3.8 million-kilowatt hours of electricity per year, preventing approximately 2,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere annually. 

Upshop

Upshop

Upshop envisions a simpler, smarter, more connected and sustainable future for the retail grocery industry. The company’s Upshop Total Store Operations Platform unifies operations across the supermarket, covering shelf-stable, perishable, prepared and ingredient items. 

Leveraging AI-driven forecast and ordering functionality, Upshop’s Fresh Operations solution suite has successfully reduced waste by an impressive 35% across all fresh departments.

Customers using the production-planning functionality have seen a 26% reduction in waste, with a 36% decrease in perishable waste in the bakery and deli departments. Real-time inventory intelligence and computer-generated ordering have led to an average waste reduction of 25% for customers in both fresh and center store departments.

Through targeted rotation and optimal markdowns, Upshop’s Expiration Date Management customers have diverted 56% to 71% of expiring products via sales channels. Combining these efforts with donation functions, most partners are diverting nearly 100% of expiring products from landfills.

Active engagement of associates is the key to the platform’s success. In fresh production, employees are provided with job aides and digitized guides to ensure that they create the right products at the right time, and in the right amounts. Upshop plans to extend its impact with the help of existing customers such as Kroger and Wegmans. 

Workforce Development/Employee Support

Amy's Kitchen

Amy’s Kitchen

A decade ago, Amy’s Kitchen opened its own primary care clinics, and they’re still going strong. Staffed by bilingual physicians and licensed vocational nurses, the clinics focus on preventive care, illness treatment, chronic conditions, health-and-wellness coaching, and coordination with specialty health services. Access is free and open to employees and their families, regardless of participation in the employee health insurance plan. 

Further, Amy’s holistic approach to health and wellness includes not only medical, dental and vision plans, but also mental health services, telehealth appointments, and exercise and fitness programs. As a result of these initiatives, the company is seeing a quantifiable improvement in employee health.

In addition, Amy’s takes into consideration financial support ranging from a 401(k) match program to tuition reimbursement to encourage learning and development. It also offers a scholarship program for employee family members. Other innovative benefits include Infants at Work and Dogs at Work programs, and a Clean Commute initiative to encourage carpooling.

Such measures are having a positive effect on worker loyalty: The average tenure of Amy’s employees is seven years, with the length of time that more than half of the company’s Santa Rosa, Calif., employees have been with Amy’s an impressive 20 years.

Frontier Co-Op

Frontier Co-op

Under CEO Tony Bedard, Frontier Co-op’s Breaking Down Barriers to Employment initiative addresses systemic barriers to employee success and economic mobility by providing such important support services as subsidized child care options, transportation, second-chance hiring practices, and apprenticeship and skills-training programs to ensure that participants are successful in their work and personal lives.

As well as partnering with local organizations like Willis Dady Homeless Services and Iowa’s Sixth Judicial District, a key pillar of the flagship initiative is the co-op’s commitment to second- chance hiring, an innovative recruitment tactic to solve a lingering hiring gap while creating a more diverse workforce. Frontier Co-op has hired 20% of its production employees through this program since its inception, including more than 60 formerly incarcerated employees and individuals struggling with homelessness. Further, more than 380 apprentices have benefited from the co-op’s program to date.

Frontier Co-op recently confirmed a three-year commitment of $225,000 to expand its partnership with Willis Dady Homeless Services. The Breaking Down Barriers to Employment program also recently launched a savings-matching program to help employees reach their savings goals and introduced an in-development ESL (English as second language) program to support current and future employees learning or improving their English.

Schnucks Employee

Schnuck Markets Inc.

Schnucks has long been focused on positioning its team members for success and remaining flexible to meet the needs of the modern workplace. Schnucks’ new Flexforce platform accomplishes both. 

The platform allows Schnucks to tap into a pool of prospective teammates who are looking for flexible shift times and locations, as well as the opportunity to earn extra income. Using the platform, workers can select shifts and store locations that best fit their personal schedules. The availability of flexwork teammates, who receive the same benefits and perks as traditional Schnucks employees and are paid after every shift through a partnership with Daily Pay, helps ensure that the retailer has the staff needed, at the right place and at the right time, to best serve its customers.

Now offered at 90% of Schnucks stores, Flexforce has been expanded from the center store to the produce department and checking and courtesy shifts. The platform is a win/win, since it attracts new workers to the retailer’s stores by allowing them to optimize their work schedules and learn and grow at their own pace while helping Schnucks address labor shortages.

Stemlit Growers

Stemilt Growers

To help young people with disabilities gain valuable real-life work experience and prepare them for future success in competitive integrated employment, Stemilt partnered with Project SEARCH and Eastmont High School, in Wenatchee, Wash., to bring seven interns to Stemilt.

The interns participated in classroom learning, on-the-job training and community activities. Project SEARCH and Stemilt teamed up with Link Transit, in Wenatchee, to teach interns how to use the local transportation system and took them on outings to help them hone their public- transportation skills.

Stemilt supervisors acted as mentors, leading interns through their job responsibilities during the three-month-long internships and bonded over lunches and work events. Interns learned how to operate cash registers, interact with customers, stock new fruit on shelves and other valuable skills. 

The training has had a huge impact: From October 2022 to April 2023, interns showed significant gains in their ability to complete difficult and lower-level tasks, and in their communication skills. Interns also boosted their working structure, self-determination, safety awareness and cognitive abilities, as well as their computer skills.

After completing their internships and graduating, two Project SEARCH interns were hired by Stemilt, one as a professional assistant in the finance department, the other as a clerk in the shipping department.

UNFI Workforce

United Natural Foods Inc.

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) is finding new ways to address labor shortage challenges. The company has adopted FlexShift to help widen its associate recruitment pool. The FlexShift platform gives workers unable to commit to full-time shift work the freedom to easily select shifts with set hours that work best with their schedules, via a mobile app. FlexShift associates can accept overtime work or shifts beyond eight hours if they wish and are eligible for company benefits if they work a minimum number of hours annually.

Available at 27 distribution centers, the model has opened up an entirely new worker pool to UNFI, ultimately providing the company with the opportunity to staff more appropriately during surge times and reducing its reliance on third-party labor and full-time associate overtime hours.

The Warehouse to Wheels program is another way that UNFI is future-proofing its workforce. Originally developed at a single UNFI distribution center to help combat the current and anticipated driver shortage, the program is now offered to eligible distribution center associates interested in obtaining the training necessary to receive a Class A CDL license. Associates completing the 12-week program become full time UNFI truck drivers with assigned routes and opportunities to earn higher wages and annual safe-driving bonuses.

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