Skip to main content

How Stop & Shop Is Feeding the Future

Chief marketing officer describes grocer’s hunger relief efforts
Feed It Forward Still Main Image
Feed It Forward is the platform through which Stop & Shop communicates its commitment to community giving.

Stop & Shop’s recently launched Feed It Forward campaign spotlights a key aspect of the Ahold Delhaize USA banner’s identity: a commitment to eliminating hunger in every neighborhood it serves across its Northeast footprint. The grocer’s hunger relief efforts include its long-running School Food Pantry Program. To find out more, Progressive Grocer caught up with Stop & Shop Chief Marketing Officer Karen Mitchell.

Progressive Grocer: Why and how was the School Food Pantry Program started? How many schools are in the program currently?

Karen Mitchell: In 2019, we were approached by the Fall River School District [in Massachusetts], as they had a significant number of students in their district who were experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. As a large local grocery retailer with a distribution center closely located to the schools, we joined forces with the district to tackle this critical issue. At the core of this initiative was the shared recognition of the challenges faced by students in our community and a knowledge that something had to be done.

We came together with the district and built out a physical space attached to the cafeteria at B.M.C. Durfee High School, where we began to deliver 10 pallets of food each month. This food would then be packed by students into discreet black backpacks that were then transported to the 16 schools across the district. From there, the backpacks would be delivered to neighborhood families identified by school guidance counselors as needing assistance.

This is how the model for our current School Food Pantry Program was built. From these beginnings, we have tailored a unique one-to-one relationship with each school so that their pantry is customized for their needs. We now have over 230 schools in our program, serving over 40,000 students and their families.

[RELATED: Ahold Delhaize USA's Brands Join White House Challenge to End Hunger]

PG: Why was Feed It Forward created, and how does it differ from Stop & Shop’s previous hunger relief efforts? How was the campaign developed?

KM: Feed It Forward is the platform through which we communicate our commitment to community giving. It not only encompasses our efforts to combat hunger, but all of the impact our associates make through volunteerism and the many ways in which our store teams contribute to our local communities. By adopting Feed It Forward as our guiding star, we seek to broaden the conversation around our giving and help our customers to understand how we value corporate social responsibility.

In essence, Feed It Forward embodies our ethos of giving back and underscores the interconnectedness between our actions, our associates’ dedication, and the tangible difference we strive to make in the lives of those around us.

In developing the campaign, the creative concept was focused around raising awareness of the Stop & Shop School Food Pantry Program and demonstrating the commitment and engagement from our store associates, whose partnership with the area schools are an integral part of the success of the program.

From there, the campaign concept “Within Reach” was born. In the spot, we follow a store manager as he goes about his day, making sure food is “within reach” for our youngest shoppers in the store, and then we see him end his day at one of our school food pantries, where he is helping to make sure food is within reach for local students and their families.

We partnered with an area agency, P3 Maine to conceive and produce the TV, video and radio components of the campaign, which is running throughout the Boston market through June.

PG: What sorts of in-store and online programs does the grocer also offer to address hunger in its communities?

KM: We are deeply committed to addressing hunger in our communities through a range of in-store and online initiatives. In our stores, we run multiple register campaigns throughout the year, providing our customers with convenient opportunities to join us in giving to those facing food insecurity in their neighborhoods. In 2023, we launched our inaugural register campaign specifically for our School Food Pantry program, which stands as the cornerstone of our giving efforts. The program is designed to foster strong connections between our store teams and local pantries, forging partnerships that directly benefit schools in need within our communities.

We’re mindful to implement only a few campaigns each year, ensuring that our customers are engaged without feeling overwhelmed.

[Never miss a story sign up for Progressive Grocer's FREE Daily newsletter]

In addition, unsold food from our stores that still remains fresh is donated to local food pantries that are part of the Feeding America network to ensure it gets to those who need it most. 

Online, we’ve established a dedicated Feed It Forward webpage serving as a hub where we highlight all aspects of our charitable initiatives. Additionally, we have a dedicated portal for our School Food Pantry Program, where schools can apply online to be a part of the program. Our selection process prioritizes schools with the highest levels of need, ensuring that our efforts are targeted where they can make the most significant impact, such as communities with higher rates of families living at or below the poverty line, and those with a high proportion of students receiving free or reduced lunch.

Through these combined efforts, both in-store and online, we’re steadfast in our mission to combat hunger and strengthen our communities, empowering our customers and partners to join us in making a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need.

PG: What are Stop & Shop’s goals with regard to hunger relief, and how are associates and shoppers contributing to them?

KM: We provide access to a critical human need, and that is not lost on us. Our responsibility goes far beyond our aisles, and we are committed to making a positive impact on the communities we serve. Our goal is to continue to grow our School Food Pantry Program to reach over 400 pantries, because the need is great. We are steadfastly marching towards this goal, working hand in hand with schools in our communities to realize this vision. More broadly, we’re on a mission to end childhood hunger, and we distribute nearly $2 million every year to food banks within our footprint specifically to address this issue through backpack programs, mobile pantries and after-school café programs.

While fighting hunger is the biggest focus of our company giving, associates at Stop & Shop also have the opportunity to give to any cause they care about personally through our Beyond The Aisles Grant Program. This program provides full- and part-time associates the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to $500 in Stop & Shop gift cards to help a community organization or cause that the associate is passionate about. Recent grants have been given for a donation of food to a local pet shelter, and another for handing out water and snacks at a pancreatic cancer walk.

Our associates are passionate about showing up for their communities, and we are happy to help facilitate the ways in which they nurture their neighbors.

Advertisement - article continues below
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds