5 MIN READ
Some 250,000 people face hunger insecurity in Central and Eastern Kentucky. But thanks to a longtime partnership between 34 of our Kroger stores and God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington, most of them have access to produce, meat and other wholesome food every day.
“When you think about the face of hunger, that face is the fabric of your community. Hunger doesn’t discriminate.”
Serving families, children, seniors—and anyone and everyone who needs food—the Food Bank assists people in all kinds of difficult circumstances. “It might be a family with a sole wage earner who lost his or her job. It might be an accident or illness that interfered with work. It can be one bad event that has people making decisions between life’s necessities, what to buy and what to skimp on,” says Mike Halligan, God’s Pantry Food Bank CEO.
Founded in 1955 by Mim Hunt, who started distributing food out of her basement to neighbors in need, God’s Pantry incorporated in 1979 and became part of the Feeding America network in 1984. They are a key partner in Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Food Rescue program, which directs nutritious food that can no longer be sold in stores to families in need.
“The idea of getting the food to the people who need it instead of throwing it away is the main priority,” says Cindy Logan, district manager for Kroger in Lexington and a Food Bank board member. “What started as donating breads and pastries has moved into higher-protein foods like meat and dairy. We work with our store teams to instill a mindset that focuses on rescuing food.”
As a food sourcing compliance officer for the Food Pantry, Linda Golebiewski and her small staff partner with 79 other food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters close to Kroger stores and train them in food safety. Thanks to support from Kroger and its foundation, she can provide equipment to transport food safely on a daily basis. “Having the surplus food available is one thing,” she explains. “The logistics of getting it where it needs to go in a safe and timely manner is another. “
Through their interactions with the Food Bank, many Kroger associates have also built personal ties to the Food Bank. “Some are so moved with how Kroger makes a difference that they volunteer with us,” Golebiewski says. “What Kroger employees do is phenomenal.”
In his role as Operations manager in Kroger’s Louisville Division, Robert Jones focuses on making sure as much food as possible goes to people. “Our first step is to sell our products to our customers,” he says. “If we can’t sell it, then we need to donate it. What can’t be donated goes into food waste bins for farm animals in the region. We focus on keeping as much food as possible out of the landfill.”
As items near their expiration date, they move into Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Food Rescue program. This year alone, Kroger’s food donations are up 20% through the Food Pantry partnership. “Something might have a blemish or a bruise, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Cindy says. “Donating wholesome produce and other food offers families a healthy addition to their diets.”
Having a partner like Kroger that’s attuned to its customers has helped the Food Bank do an even better job of serving its clients. “We are so grateful to Kroger for this partnership,” said Halligan. “There are two words that can’t ever be said enough: Thank you. To Kroger and the stores and associates we work with, our 60 employees and 20,000 volunteers. Together, we make a difference for a quarter-million people at risk of hunger.”