The food industry is doing its part to help survivors of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, in some cases leveraging its Internet presence to do so.
Wal-Mart Stores said it is committing an initial $5 million in cash and in-kind donations for emergency relief efforts. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company also said its operations around the world are implementing fund-raising drives among employees and customers to provide additional relief funds.
Wal-Mart said its workers in Japan have set up distribution points for water, food and sanitary items in store parking lots where the stores themselves are too damaged to open.
Toru Noda, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Japan, said the company is “actively engaged in providing assistance on the ground, and we're continuing to look for additional ways we can help with the relief efforts.”
Chains including Kroger Co., Cincinnati; Foodland Super Market, Honolulu; and Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., utilized their websites last week to direct consumers to an American Red Cross website that was accepting donations for disaster relief in Japan. Costco also said it is accepting cash register donations at all locations around the world.
Costco said one of its nine warehouse clubs in Japan sustained “significant damage” during the natural disaster — a unit in Tamasaki, where two non-employees died when a parking ramp collapsed. That store will remain closed for several months, the company said, though the other eight are open for business.
Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., used a moving billboard across the top of its website to encourage consumers to make donations to Japan relief by texting pledges of $10 to the Red Cross, charged to their phone bill.
Various chains said shoppers could make cash donations to the American Red Cross at their checkstands, including Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.; Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif.; and Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., whose Wegmans Family Charitable Foundations also donated $100,000 to the Red Cross relief efforts.
While some chains set end-dates for donation collections, Save Mart said it would continue to accept donations “as long as there is need and interest among shoppers.”
According to Steve Junqueiro, president and chief operating officer, “The amount of aid needed in Japan is staggering. We feel it is our obligation, no matter how challenging our economic conditions may be at present, to help provide a secure, convenient means for the community to give what it can to help those in need.”
Food Marketing Institute is suggesting its members take a wait-and-see approach to determine what specific help Japan needs, Kathleen Thomas, director of media relations, told SN.
She said Leslie Sarasin, FMI president and CEO, spoke with FMI members in Japan right after the disasters struck to check on their safety and ask what FMI could do, “and the members said that, when they know their needs more specifically, they will let us know.
“Meanwhile, we are advising members to make donations through the American Red Cross, and as it becomes clearer what kind of specific help we can provide, we will share that information.”
Scott Openshaw, director of communications for Grocery Manufacturers Association, said GMA is acting as a liaison to help facilitate communications among its members and the American Logistics Aid Network, an emergency relief portal.
Using the website ALANaid.org, vendors can indicate what they have available to donate and ALAN can match that with information on what specific organizations in Japan need.