COMPTON, Calif. -- Food 4 Less Stores makes it easy for shoppers to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Customers simply go into one of its stores to get a free, pre-addressed postcard that will be sent to troops in harm's way.
Called "Connecting With Our Soldiers," the campaign has the support of 16 retail chains -- including Stater Bros., Winn-Dixie Stores, Ahold USA and Harris Teeter. More than 100,000 postcards have been delivered.
"'Connecting With Our Soldiers' allows us to engage our stores, our customers and our vendor partners in supporting our troops and expressing our gratitude," Eddie Vasquez, director of sales and marketing, Food 4 Less, said in a statement. Food 4 Less is a division of Kroger Co., Cincinnati.
Food 4 Less is so involved in the effort that it runs special, themed events. Along with a July promotion, it hosted a monthlong campaign in February that generated 16,000 postcards. Results of the July event have not been announced.
Winn Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla., ran a "Connecting With Our Soldiers" program this past Memorial Day in select stores. Several hundred postcards were distributed at samplings and demonstrations featuring Winn-Dixie's meat products.
"It was a great way to recognize the significance of Memorial Day, while providing in-store excitement," Dennis Wortham, communications manager, Winn-Dixie, told SN.
The program is the brainchild of Caroline Cotten Nakken, president and chief executive officer, Mass Connections, Cerritos, Calif., a provider of retail marketing services and promotions. Cotten Nakken thought of the idea after a conversation with Jack Brown, chairman and CEO, Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif.
During a discussion about ways to support the U.S. military, Brown mentioned how Stater Bros. employees are encouraged to write letters to Stater Bros. associates called to serve in the war.
Cotten Nakken felt compelled to do something similar on a broader scale. To do so, she sought out involvement not only from retailers, but also manufacturers. About 30 consumer packaged goods firms, including Kraft and General Mills, are involved. Vendors participate by conducting an in-store product demonstration.
Postcards are distributed at the demonstration area. While anyone can get a free postcard, those who purchase the product being sampled get an entire deck for free. The postcards are addressed to Mass Connections, which bundles them and works with the military to distribute them to various units stationed abroad. Mass Connections also assembles care packages filled with products from participating vendors.
"Many people want to support the troops but are not sure how to go about it," Brown told SN. "This program makes it easy."
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has acknowledged the effort.
"I was particularly pleased to see the photos of our service members receiving their post cards," Myers wrote in a letter to Mass Connections.
Stater Bros. Steps Up for Employees Called to War
COLTON, Calif. -- Stater Bros. Markets here goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to supporting its workers serving in the Iraq war.
The company offers military personnel the following:
- It makes up the difference between military pay and Stater Bros. salary for as long as the employee is away.
- Dependents continue to receive medical benefits for as long as the Stater Bros. employee is gone.
- Once they return to the U.S., Stater Bros. employees are offered the same positions they had when they left.
- Workers continue to accrue vacation and seniority while they're deployed.
"I didn't want our people worrying about these things when they were away," Jack Brown, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, told SN.
The company's support for U.S. troops doesn't end there. Along with participating in Mass Connections' "Connecting with Our Soldiers" campaign, Brown, a Vietnam veteran, launched "Operation Mailbag," in which employees are encouraged to write letters to the 27 company workers serving abroad.
Likewise, it provides massive holiday dinners for family members of all 27 military personnel. And every week, Stater Bros. employees check in with spouses of deployed associates to see if anything is needed.