BOISE, Idaho -- As America's Second Harvest continues its effort to introduce more healthful foods to its system, it will get a major boost from Albertsons here, which will expand its innovative Fresh Rescue program throughout 2005.
First announced in September, the program collects and distributes nutritious perishable foods to America's Second Harvest affiliates.
"Dairy, meat, produce and limited-shelf-life products are an important part of a healthy diet," said Larry Johnston, Albertsons chairman, chief executive officer and president. "We provide them to food banks that can accommodate them."
But first, the company is helping to upgrade local agencies' infrastructures to make sure their refrigerated trucks and temperature-controlled facilities can safely handle the donations. That process was started last year with a $200,000 contribution from Albertsons and General Mills. Albertsons later contributed an additional $100,000, for a total of $300,000.
"We made a commitment to take this program nationwide, and so far we're in Portland [Ore.], Phoenix and Orlando [Fla.]," Johnston said. "We'll continue to do that in other cities across the country as soon as [the agencies] are able to accommodate the program."
Even before the Fresh Rescue program, Albertsons was a major supporter of A2H. For two years in a row -- 2002 and 2003 -- the company was named America's Second Harvest Retailer of the Year. "In 2003 Albertsons donated 23 million pounds of food to A2H Food Banks across the country. In all, including product donations, vendor programs, volunteer hours and cash donations, Albertsons contributed a total of $41.8 million to A2H food banks nationwide in 2003. Through the third quarter of fiscal 2004, the company donated 19 million pounds of food to A2H and is on track to top the previous year's figures with an estimated total contribution of $48 million. Most recently, a holiday food drive raised $1 million in cash and in-kind donations.
"I think Second Harvest deserves to be commended for exposing the program to as many communities as they can across the country," Johnston said. "Even though everybody's doing a great job of providing shelf-stable grocery products, the meals many times lack critical elements like protein.
"We had a truck from the Northern Illinois Food Bank show up at one of our Jewel stores in Chicago. They picked up meat products in the morning and were able to deliver them to several food pantries and a women's shelter. Later in the day, each of those agencies was able to serve hamburger.
"That seems like a simple thing to us, but the volunteers at the food banks were very grateful," Johnston continued. "They said to us that in the days before the Fresh Rescue program, their meals often would not have any protein. Sometimes they would have a hamburger bun, but no hamburger. Just lettuce and tomato."