Food waste is an issue Kroger has pledged to tackle with its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Initiative. “One in seven families go to bed hungry,” says Kroger’s Corporate Affairs Manager Erin Rolfes. “We throw away as a country about 40 percent of the food we produce. How do we shrink those numbers?” Kroger is committed to end hunger and eliminate waste company-wide by 2025 with an ambitious plan that includes food donations, policy advocacy, and in-store practices. Here are a few ways Kroger is positively impacting the community as it takes steps toward its goal.
Kroger’s in-store initiatives reduce waste.
Kroger stores are the first place the company looks to eliminate food waste and connect people with the food they need to thrive. Many customers are familiar with browsing the produce shelves filled with bright, fresh items. Should a piece of produce not sell immediately, it may be bundled with other items in a red bag and sold at a reduced rate. If the items still do not sell, but are perfectly healthy to eat, the grocer donates them to local food banks. The final step is the compost bin. “The rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t serve it to my family, it gets composted,” Rolfes says. A store will compost everything from produce and meat to potato salad and macaroni and cheese.
Kroger invests in community endeavors that end hunger, like NKU’s Food Pantry.
Ending food waste is just half of the goal; Kroger is also actively engaged in ending hunger in the community. One way it does so is through its partnership with Northern Kentucky University’s Food Pantry, FUEL NKU. The project started in 2013 when NKU School of Social Work Associate Professor Dr. Jessica Taylor launched a food pantry in a basement office without any outside funding. A few years later, she reached out to Kroger for help, proposing a plan for how to reimagine the pantry space. After the university approved Taylor’s final plans, Kroger’s facility engineers and contractors helped build a 2,300 square-foot facility including offices and a new pantry space featuring proper ventilation and a grocery store feel. “We not only donated the dollars and the build out,” says Rolfes, “we kept it stocked for the grand opening and donated equipment, coolers, and produce tables.”
The pantry also helps students with personal goals, like filling out financial aid forms and navigating other aspects of being a college student. During FUEL NKU’s first semester on campus, students who used the pantry were 3 percent more likely than their Pell grant–eligible counterparts to complete the semester and 7 percent more likely to complete the school year than the general Pell grant population.