Supermarket chain proves to be ‘giant’ giver to local community
Last Wednesday on what was the initial day that most in this area lost power, I happened to run into the Giant Supermarket on 420 in Springfield, at around 12 noon, for a few items. Not thinking that the supermarket, too, would be without power, I was a little surprised to see the darkened store with plastic sheathing covering the perimeter aisles that hold the meat, dairy, produce and frozen foods. There was also yellow “caution” tape blocking off the freezer and dairy cases.
Near the front door were a few official looking guys, a little more dressed up than the average Joe, who told me I couldn’t buy anything that was “under the plastic or behind the yellow tape.” Unable to buy most of the grocery items I came in after, I took my bread and other few “dry goods” to the cashier. The conveyor belts weren’t working without electricity, but the cash registers were (go figure).
“What are they going to do with all that food in the refrigerator and dairy cases covered with the plastic?” I asked the cashier.
“They have to discard it because we can’t risk selling it again,” she told me, matter-of-factly.
“You mean you throw it all out?” I asked incredulously, thinking there was no way all that food was bad in just a few hours with no refrigeration, especially since the temps outside were so cold! She shrugged her shoulders. I left upset.
Every Tuesday I come to work past Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Prospect Park and I see the long line of people in need, waiting out front on the sidewalk to be let in for their allotment of groceries so they or their families don’t go hungry until the following Tuesday. I thought of those same people, our neighbors in Delaware County who are experiencing difficult times and need a hand up, and I couldn’t get them out of my mind after leaving the supermarket that day.
I realize there’s the liability factor, but couldn’t those in need sign a waiver if they wanted to chance it and eat the food, I was thinking as I pulled out of the parking lot. After all, I sometimes stop for a few errands with a car full of groceries or don’t put my groceries away the split second I bring them in my door, and all of us are still living and didn’t die of food poisoning. Anyway, the whole thought of all this possible waste and all the need out there nagged at me for a couple of days. I finally picked up the phone and called Giant because I needed to know straight up from the source if they really had the conscience to toss all that food and I had to get it off my mind.
I spoke with a nice manager named Fran who gave the phone to a nice manager named Tom who then gave the phone to another nice manager, Bill. My man Bill referred me to Giant’s Corporate Headquarters and I spoke with the gentleman in charge of Giant’s Consumer Affairs, Chris, who couldn’t have been more professional and helpful.
First off, he laid my mind to rest by saying the employee had it all wrong (which proves how one person with incorrect info can truly start an awful rumor). Giant did not discard all that food. He said the supermarket lost power that day at 7 am and regained it at 2 pm. The food was underneath plastic, he said, because it was covered in dry ice to keep it cold (See how looks can be deceiving). Temperatures were monitored the entire time to insure they remained within guidelines of proper refrigeration. Giant follows a very strict safety protocol, Chris assured me, and I certainly couldn’t argue that this isn’t a good thing! In the meantime, Giant was sending out some refrigerated trucks and generators.
Giant owns 200 stores, with 80 of them in the Greater Philadelphia area, Chris said, and many of them got hit in this last storm so they were bringing the generators to the stores hit the hardest. Giant also has 300 refrigerated trucks and drivers so it can well handle keeping food at proper temps if an outage gets prolonged, which wasn’t the case in Springfield (although it was in Warminster, he said).The only time when a large quantity of food had to be tossed was after Hurricane Sandy, and of course, that was understandable.
In all, Chris said, the store only had to toss about $600-800 worth of merchandise which seemed like next to nothing when compared to how much food was under the plastic. Even I, an outsider to the supermarket biz, can understand how a little waste is the nature of the beast. It is the exceptional, gross waste that is another story altogether. Chris said employees did a visual check after the power came on and anything that even remotely was suspect did get thrown out so no chances were taken. Yogurt, for instance, that was slightly bubbled on the foil became suspect and had to be thrown out, along with some ice cream, but that was it. Everything else maintained necessary temperatures and was fine.
And when I told Chris how I envisioned all those in need of food and that’s why I needed to call him to achieve peace of mind, he told me something I didn’t know , but now that I do, I feel compelled to share. Giant Supermarket, which has been around since 1923, has always been a generous donor to those in the community in need. Chris forwarded me a letter Giant recently received from Philabundance.
Last year, Giant surpassed the 1,000,000 pound mark in meat that it donated to Philabundance. Participating in the “Meat the Needs” program since its inception, Giant freezes meat before its expiration date and donates it to Philabundance. In just the past several months alone, Giant has donated 163,294 lbs. of meat to the program.
Giant’s charitable giving mission, Chris said, focuses on Hunger Relief and improving the quality of life for children. Giant is a drop-off point and makes sizable donations to the WMGK John DeBella Annual Turkey Drop. Well over 10,000 turkeys have been collected annually in the last several years and donated to CityTeam Ministries.
“By the way,” Chris wrote me, (in addition to the Philabundance and CityTeam donations) “we also just announced a $5 million donation to CHOP.”
I feel obligated to pass on and publicize all this generous charitable giving that goes on at Giant, especially its efforts to feed those in the local community who are experiencing difficult times. After all, this is what made me investigate the supermarket power outage situation to begin with and I surely would have publicly vented had I found out my initial information was correct. The simple little shopping trip to Giant left me feeling sad over the imagined waste and then uplifted me when I discovered the supermarket chain really does care about its customers and those in the communities it serves.
As a disclaimer to praising Giant for all its charitable giving, allow me to say I have no special interest there and no one in my immediate family works there. I shop at Giant as much as I shop at Acme, ShopRite and other supermarkets, but I must give credit where credit is due. In this case, Giant does deserve credit for giving back generously to their customers who support them and for making an earnest effort to salvage food in an unforeseen situation from being wasted.
A big shout out and thank you goes to Chris Brand up at Giant Corporate Headquarters for setting the record straight. I only wish he could make a little road trip down from Carlisle to Springfield to enlighten all employees there about what happens to food put on dry ice during a power outage. Knowing it won’t be just easily tossed into the dumpster can not only help them from spreading false information to customers, but it will allow them to sleep better at night too.